Editorial Feature

Roadfill: A Sustainable Approach to Fixing Roads

The creation of new roads and the maintenance of existing roads have substantially increased the use of fossil fuels, which significantly increased road repair/laying costs and contributed to global carbon emissions. Roadworx®, developed by Roadfill® in collaboration with Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Greenwich, can address this issue effectively, innovatively, and sustainably.

Roadfill, road fixing, fixing roads

Image Credit: F Armstrong Photography/Shutterstock.com

Existing Challenges in Road Repairing

Roads are a critical asset for any country as they support almost every economic activity and all aspects of the daily lives of common people. However, road networks are increasingly under stress due to the rising number of on-road vehicles, primarily due to increasing car ownership and inadequate road maintenance, specifically by local authorities, due to shortage of funds.

The road surface is typically 0.8 cm thick, which leads to quick fatigue and wear and tear and necessitates regular maintenance. For instance, Highways England has forecasted that 50% of major A-roads and motorways will have to cope with traffic levels currently experienced on the M25 motorway within a generation during peak hours.

However, local councils in the country lack sufficient monetary resources for necessary upkeep and maintenance, which resulted in an increased frequency and number of potholes. Potholes primarily indicate the poor maintenance of roads and represent a significant risk to the safety of road users.

Similar situations in other countries have increased the possibility of road failures within a short period due to increased traffic and adverse weather conditions.  Although central governments in many countries are extending financial assistance to local authorities for repairing roads, such funds are insufficient to completely restore the local road network.

These challenges necessitate the development of novel products and solutions that can be utilized to effectively fix roads in an affordable manner.

About Roadfill

Roadfill, a startup founded by Christie Raptaki in 2017, is one of the pioneers in innovative road products, materials, and surfacing. The proprietary Roadworx product of the United Kingdom (UK)-based startup offers a quicker, cheaper, and environmentally cleaner solution to existing road repairing challenges using recycled plastic waste in an innovative way for laying and repairing roads.

The company currently has offices in Scotland and England and conducted trials of their product in the home counties with Buckinghamshire Council and north of the border with Tayside Contracts and Bin Group. In March 2023, Roadfill was one of the winners in the #21toWatch ‘company’ category.

Roadworx: A Sustainable Solution to Road Repairing Challenges

The rising amount of plastic waste across the world is severely affecting both the environment and human health. The technology developed by Roadfill addresses both the adverse effects of plastic pollution and the use of fossil fuels for road upkeep and maintenance.

Roadworx products are manufactured using combinations of waste polypropylene (PP) and low-density polyethylene (LDPE) with less than 150 °C melting point to ensure less energy consumption in this process. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is not used to make Roadworx products as PVC has a higher melting point of 150-260 °C.

The addition of Roadworx recycled plastic products into the asphalt mix by replacing bitumen significantly reduces the amount of bitumen required in asphalt for relaying/repairing roads/reduces fossil fuel usage, increases the longevity, durability, and flexibility of asphalt roads, and significantly decreases road maintenance costs, which is a major issue in road maintenance.

Roadworx products also reduce carbon emissions, landfill waste, and associated taxes. Moreover, the approach is also environmentally sustainable as it reduces plastic waste generation and consumes significantly less energy compared to the traditional approach, resulting in a reduction in carbon dioxide footprint.

In a typical one-kilometer road, an equivalent of two million plastic bags can be utilized through this technology. Plastics require over 500 years to bio-integrate themselves, which is a major problem. However, Roadfill leveraged this durability of plastics as an advantage as it used them to prolong the longevity of relayed/repaired roads.

The use of polymers imparts greater flexibility to the road surface and assists in reducing tire fatigue, which further reduces the emissions due to fossil fuels. Roads repaired using recycled plastics in asphalt mix retain sufficient elasticity to reduce the formation of potholes and cracks, which improves the safety of road users. Plastic waste also improves bitumen's penetration value, viscosity, and softening point.

Roadworx can offer cost savings of up to 50% to local councils/authorities compared to their current expenditure for road repair and maintenance, leading to substantial savings in both local authority and government highway budgets.

Although Roadworx products have been designed for both cold lay and warm lay applications, the company does not work with hot lay asphalt owing to its ethical stand on reducing carbon emissions.

Most of the Western economies have set stringent carbon dioxide emission targets to reduce their overall carbon footprint. Roadfill’s products can play a crucial role in reducing carbon emissions and contributing to a circular economy by reducing reliance on depleting fossil fuels.

However, the reluctance of tarmacadam companies to shift from the existing fully bitumen-based approach is a major challenge towards large-scale commercialization of Roadfill’s products as these companies have financially benefitted for several years using bitumen.

Future Outlook

Roadfill is working with local councils and highway authorities in the UK to repair damaged roads using their Roadworx recycled plastic products and aims to source waste plastics from locations close to roadworks and resurfacing operations to reduce transportation costs and the carbon footprint of the overall process. The company has also held discussions with Chinese, American, and European companies for either white labeling or licensing their products.

Recently, Roadfill’s Roadworx product has been selected for road maintenance programs in Rhodes, Corfu, and across the Dodecanese islands of Greece. Roadfill won this contract jointly funded by the country’s central government and the islands’ local authorities after a partnership pilot between the Greek government’s research and development division and Roadfill.

Roadfill is contributing to the Build Back Better initiative of the UK government by building sustainable closed-loop circular economies. For instance, the company is collecting PPE equipment from a major UK airport through one of its clients, then shredding the equipment on site, and finally utilizing them in a substrate mix for repair work within the airport estate.

The company is also working with Manchester University and Versarian to introduce graphene into their asphalt blends.

Advanced Materials: Reshaping the Future of Industries

References and Further Reading

Roadfill. [Online] Available at https://roadfill.co.uk/ (Accessed on 16 September 2023)

Using Plastic Waste to Repair and Maintain Roads. [Online] Available at https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=1343 

Ford, J. (2023). Recycled plastic is on the road to sustainability. [Online] Available at https://www.theengineer.co.uk/content/news/recycled-plastic-is-on-the-road-to-sustainability/ 

Greek island roads adopt British plastic recycling tech. [Online] Available at https://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/greek-island-roads-adopt-british-plastic-recycling-tech 

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Samudrapom Dam

Written by

Samudrapom Dam

Samudrapom Dam is a freelance scientific and business writer based in Kolkata, India. He has been writing articles related to business and scientific topics for more than one and a half years. He has extensive experience in writing about advanced technologies, information technology, machinery, metals and metal products, clean technologies, finance and banking, automotive, household products, and the aerospace industry. He is passionate about the latest developments in advanced technologies, the ways these developments can be implemented in a real-world situation, and how these developments can positively impact common people.

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