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Project Marks First Use of 'Plastic Road' Material in Texas

Tue March 21, 2023 - West Edition #7
University of Texas Arlington

Sahadat Hossain, UTA civil engineering professor and director of the UTA Solid Waste Institute for Sustainability
(University of Texas at Arlington photo)
Sahadat Hossain, UTA civil engineering professor and director of the UTA Solid Waste Institute for Sustainability (University of Texas at Arlington photo)

A University of Texas at Arlington civil engineering professor is using both recycled and unrecycled plastic waste products to fill in surface cracks and reduce rutting in roads — the first use of what's called "plastic road" material in Texas.

Sahadat Hossain, UTA civil engineering professor and director of the UTA Solid Waste Institute for Sustainability, received a grant of approximately $950,000 from the Dallas district of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Karthikeyan Loganathan, assistant professor of civil engineering, is co-principal investigator.

The use of plastic road is expected to improve the durability and strength of highway pavement and serve as a replacement for bitumen in asphalt pavement roads. The first plastic road implementation project will be in the Kaufman area. Over the last three years, Hossain's team successfully completed a laboratory investigation examining the reuse of waste plastics in asphalt.

Recently, Hossain met with the World Bank on implementation of plastic road projects in developing countries.

"This is a perfect example of reuse of recycled materials for circular economy and green economy," he said.

In a separate project, the Fort Worth district of TxDOT awarded Hossain a $637,060 contract to implement moisture barriers that reduce cracks and improve durability and strength of highway pavement and shoulders. The modified moisture barriers will be used in five locations in the Fort Worth district and two locations in the Dallas district.

"This new method could save TxDOT even more on pavement maintenance cost," Hossain said.

Ricardo Gonzalez, director of TxDOT Fort Worth, said: "The technology proposed and the benefits discussed have a potential of cost savings to the department. Due to the results described on rutting of the pavement, this would be beneficial to address a concern of rutting pavement within our system with a potential increased durability. We look forward to identifying a way forward to work with The University of Texas at Arlington and Dr. Hossain."

A third Hossain-led project involves the use of recycled plastic pins to stabilize highway soil slopes. The pins are eight to 10 feet in length and are driven into the soil to stabilize the slope.

"This is a very cost-effective and green solution compared to existing slope stabilization methods," he said.

Melanie Sattler, interim chair of UTA's Department of Civil Engineering, said other states are following Hossain's lead and adopting recycled plastic pins to shore up failing highway embankments.

"Dr. Hossain is a leader in the field," Sattler said. "His innovative use of recycled plastic is making infrastructure construction more sustainable."

A global leader in sustainable waste management, Hossain also is conducting research on landfill recycling and making landfills more sustainable.

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