How Dow Chemical plans to expand its plastics asphalt business

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, July 07, 2022
How Dow Chemical plans to expand its plastics asphalt business

Dow Chemical, which is behind the construction of two highways and a road using asphalt produced with recycled plastics in Mexico, is aiming to step up its game. 

This asphalt formula involves 1t of plastics per 1,000-2,000m. The product is more flexible than traditional asphalt. However, mixing this material and recycled plastic can be challenging due to the repellent effect of both components, which led Dow to add copolymer alloys, or Elvaloy, sustainability marketing manager Iván Trillo told BNamericas.

The mix was first applied in 2019 to build stretches of two highways in Guanajuato state, partnering up with construction company Vise, and a third road in Mexico state, in a plastic production complex in Atlacomulco municipality. The plastic produced in the complex was used to build the road.

“Before construction, we carried out a lot of tests. We had the opportunity to work with [infrastructure, communications, and transportation ministry] SICT to do it on a highway. We had to fulfill many requirements: tests of elongation and resistance to make sure that the mix was adequate. There’s an entire protocol about preparing the asphalt mix,” Trillo said. 

This year, more tests were carried out on the first highway. 

“Three weeks ago, we went back to the first highway built with the mix [in Guanajuato state] and took a sample of the materials to see how they are performing. We carried out the same tests and the results were conclusive: the material was in very good condition, but we also detected areas of opportunity,” he said.

Based on these and previous laboratory results, Dow Chemical is improving the formula. Trillo added the company partnered with Vise to use the asphalt mix to build roads in Mexico, Colombia and another country, which will be revealed this month.

Apart from roadworks, Dow Chemical wants to use the formula in other projects, too. 

“We have 5km built [with this mix in Mexico] and more than 400km worldwide, but we want to build much more. [W]e have now used more than 200,000t of plastic. There is visible benefit, however, it will grow the more highways use these materials,” he said.

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