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UT Arlington's plastic road project paves the way for sustainability

A UTA civil engineering professor and his research team created a material that uses wasted plastic to fix cracked roads. The next step is implementing it on roads.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Cracked and worn-out roads can be frustrating to drivers, but at the University of Texas at Arlington, a civil engineering professor and his researchers are hoping to create a long-term solution.

Dr. Sahadat Hossain leads the team made up of PhD students and a post-doctoral research associate. They've spent the last three to four years on a plastic road project to reuse wasted plastic in asphalt.

With a background in sustainable waste management, Dr. Hossain said, "We don't want plastic to go into the landfill." There are many kinds of plastic, some recyclable and some not recyclable. 

Dr. Hossain said they collected all types of plastic for research.

After 2,000 tests, they feel confident about the combination they created. Each sample was tested for its wear and durability, skid resistance, and strength. 

Ultimately, Dr. Hossain said their material with plastic is stronger than what is currently used to fill cracks in roads.

Dr. Hossain said the idea was pitched to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). They are now working with TxDOT's Dallas district to implement it on a site and continue the research outside of the lab. He believes this will begin by summer 2023.

He's also been in talks with UT Arlington to implement the plastic road material on Greek Row, where there's a history of cracking on the street.

Dr. Hossain said roads are generally repaired every one to two years, but with the plastic roads material, he believes it will last ten years before maintenance is needed. It makes it more cost-effective and sustainable.

"This is the perfect example of sustainable engineering. Reducing, reusing and recycling," Dr. Hossain said. 

Dr. Hossain is also heading to Bangladesh at the end of April to install their plastic material overseas. He has interest from Ethiopia, too.

"This is a game-changer to me for the pavement industry," he said. Dr. Hossain and his team are paving the way to a more sustainable world. 

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