Cumbria first in Europe to trial innovative new plastic roads product

Cumbria County Council, working with surfacing partner Hanson, is to begin a project investigating the sustainability and suitability of using additives derived from waste plastics as part of their highways surfacing programme to reducing carbon footprint and provide a more resilient road network, as part of the ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs Programme, a £22.9 million initiative funded by the Department for Transport (DfT).

Cumbria, allocated £1.6m, is one of just eight local authorities in the country – and the only one in the North of England – to be selected as part of the Live Labs programme to carry out real world tests using new highways technology and methods on local roads which could revolutionise the highways and waste industry.

The highways industry has significant environmental impact in terms of carbon footprint, use of oil-based products and the use of quarried material. Cumbria County Council and its partners believes it is incumbent upon us as an industry to seek new and innovative ways to reduce environmental damage.

Shell Bitumen’s LTR will be trialled for the first time in Europe this month with Cumbria County Council.  

Richard Taylor, Global Technology Development Manager, said “Shell Bitumen is delighted to be given the opportunity to be part of this trial using innovative new solutions. Our Shell Bitumen LTR binder uses a chemically modified waste plastic, which makes it compatible with bitumen and enables asphalt to be produced and installed at lower temperatures.  As well as developing a beneficial use for plastic at the end of its life it also helps lower carbon emissions through reduced energy use during asphalt production”.

Shell Bitumen started a circular economy research programme in 2018 aimed at developing technologies that reduce waste and pollution and ensure that pavements are kept in service for longer. Additives were assessed for their suitability for use in bitumen and asphalt mixtures, and in the laboratory potential formulations were identified. 

The first trial pavement was carried out in the United States and the new technology was chosen as the main binder for extensive civil engineering works.

Shell Bitumen LTR fits nicely into the circular economy principles and is part of Shell’s strategy to constantly look for new and better solutions to support the evolving needs of the industry and address the challenges of the future.

Cumbria County Council, Shell and Hanson will commence works on the first European trials on 25 May on the outskirts of Nenthead, one of England’s highest villages situated in the North Pennines. 

Cllr Keith Little, Cumbria County Council Cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said: “The highways industry does have a significant environmental impact in terms of carbon footprint and it’s important we seek new and innovative ways to mitigate this impact. Using waste plastic in the road surface is something that we’re very keen to support.

“Cumbria County Council is pioneering the use of waste plastic material in our highways and we’re delighted to be the first in Europe to trial Shell Bitumen’s LTR product through the ADEPT Live Labs programme. I look forward to seeing the results of this trial taking place here in Cumbria on the A689 at Nenthead.”

Live Labs Programme Director, Giles Perkins said: It’s exciting to see further innovation in the Cumbria Live Lab which is becoming a centre of excellence for considering the circular economy and re-use of materials in the local roads sector, able to provide local authorities across the UK with practical insights and learnings”

Adrian Stubbs, Regional General Manager for Hanson added: Hanson are extremely pleased to be working with Cumbria County Council and Shell on the trials of the innovative Shell LTR product.  As a company, we are continually striving to find ways in which we can reduce our environmental impact and the ADEPT Live Labs programme has proven to be a fantastic opportunity for us to collaboratively work with our client and supply partners to promote this”

Pic-Cumbria Council

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