Scottish council plans to fill potholes with recycled plastic waste

An innovative new trial could see discarded fizzy drinks bottles being used to fill potholes in Scottish roads as a stronger and greener alternative to traditional tarmac.

A new tactic could be used to fill potholes

Highways chiefs in Fife are set to test recycled plastic made from bags and bottles for use in road repairs.

The local authority has approached Carlisle-based company MacRebur, which has developed a bitumen-substitute called MR6, to explore the advantages of using the product.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Hopes are high that the substance could go a long way to solving the nation’s pothole crisis while also reducing the environmental impact of surfacing materials.

The firm has been financially backed by Sir Andy Murray and Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson in recent years, and Cumbria County Council carried out a successful £200,000 resurfacing scheme using the technique on the A7 in the Lake District.

Similar initiatives have been used elsewhere in Europe, and it’s hoped Fife could soon follow suit.

“We’re open to trialling innovative and sustainable road surfacing materials,” said Derek Crowe, senior manager for Fife Council’s roads and transportation service. “However, at this time of economic restrictions the cost of the trial must be economic and competitive with traditional materials. Once any current cost issues can be overcome we will be happy to trial such innovative processes.”

Fellow service manager David Brown has also previously expressed interest in the concept and said the local authority is keen to investigate it more closely.

“As a council, Fife has always been at the forefront of sustainability and we try to keep up to date with all the latest innovation which is coming forward,” he said.

“We have been taking a keen interest in the process of turning recycling plastic into potential road surface and have been in touch with MacRebur with a view to carrying out a trial in Fife.

“At the moment we are researching technical aspects of the process and looking at potential sites where this could be done.”

The latest estimates suggest the cost of tackling Scotland’s pothole backlog stands at around £1.2 billion, and other avenues to help deal with the problem are being actively explored.

Laboratory tests have shown that the MR6 filler is 60 per cent stronger and ten times longer-lasting than regular asphalt. It is made with 100 per cent recycled materials. Its creation cuts use of fossil fuels and could divert plastic waste from ending up in landfill.

The product is the brainchild of MacRebur founder Toby McCartney, who got his inspiration after visiting southern India with a charity helping people who work on rubbish dumps.

During the trip he saw how some of the plastic litter was put into potholes, doused in petrol and then set alight until it melted into the craters.

He went on to develop the idea to produce pellets made out of assorted plastic waste than can be blended with trad­itional materials to create an enhanced asphalt.

Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay councillor Alice McGarry raised the idea with officers and admitted she would love to see how it could work here.

“It would be wonderful to use these materials,” she said. “The Netherlands have invested in this heavily but it may not be suitable for all countries.”