Road contractors are always in high demand due to the expansive nature of human society. Whether we are building new houses, offices, parks and recreational areas, roads are an essential part of this whole process. But just how sustainable is building all these new roads, and what impact do they have on the environment?
Road Contractors Are in High Demand
There are around 1.2 billion vehicles in operation today and this number is always rising. Although the way we are building cars is changing, for example, electric-powered vehicles, the way in which we make roads has not changed much in the last 100 years. However, thanks to the advancement in technology and new initiatives, engineers are finding new ways for road contractors to build highways more sustainably and efficiently.
Upcycling and recycling
In the same way that an old plastic bottle can be upcycled or repurposed into a plant pot, road engineers are finding new ways to reuse existing materials. Waste oil is being tested as a component of road tar, and old asphalt is currently being broken down and tested for its suitability for being reused. These efforts come at a time when we drastically need new construction methods in order to slow down the effect that building roads seems to be having on our planet.
Road Contractors Reducing The Harm
There are three main ways in which road contractors are having a negative impact on sustainability. Firstly, building roads requires vast recourses and raw materials, that for the most part are finite and being depleted rapidly. Concrete requires sand, rock and cement component to hold it all together, and all of these materials have to be mined and processed which is hugely resource-intensive. The reuse of existing concrete and asphalt help cut down this process, however, in order for this recycling process to work the existing concrete has to be mixed with some virgin materials. So there is some energy offset but still, some energy is being used, so it is not completely sustainable.
Unfortunately due to the nature of roads, they require elaborate drainage systems to keep the roads free from water. The water runs off the roads and into the drainage channels and eventually end up in municipal sewage works before being dumped in lakes streams and rivers. The problem is, the water on its journey pick up lots of waste particles as well a substantial amount of oil and debris from the asphalt. Thankful engineers are coming up with ways to lay down a porous tarmac, which allows water to pass through, avoiding the waterways, which lead to further contamination.
Tarmac is a petroleum-based product and regarded as a high VOC (Volatile Organic Compound), and when it is being produced there are tremendous amounts of harmful gases released into the atmosphere. Furthermore, when the tarmac is being applied and cured, there is even more off-gassing, and even road paint releases harmful gases. The solution to these harmful VOCs in tarmac is still being worked on, however, we now have bio-based paints for road markings which is making a significant difference.