Plastic is a problem. It’s a problem that Scottish startup MacRebur is taking on one mile at a time.
MacRebur is aiming to challenge three major world issues: Repurposing millions of tonnes of waste plastic, saving millions in the cost of road repairs and strengthening our existing roads. The idea for the startup was born when CEO and co-founder Toby McCartney – who happens to live on a road plagued by potholes himself (delete ‘himself’) – visited India and witnessed people melting down plastic they found on local landfill sites to repair potholes. While the method he witnessed on that trip wasn’t particularly environmentally practical, McCartney left with the idea of using waste plastic to replace and reinforce the roads here in the UK and beyond.
Both potholes and waste plastic are potentially hazardous – uneven road surfaces increase the likelihood of road accidents, whereas plastic lying dormant in landfill sites is harmful to our environment. Repurposing that waste plastic to work towards improving the safety of our roads whilst creating stronger, more resilient roads that will stand the test of time is at the heart of MacRebur, and their startup is hitting the road hard.
So how does it work?
While McCartney’s trip to India saw him witness waste plastic being crammed into potholes, doused in petrol and set alight, MacRebur’s approach to using plastic in new and existing road composition has a little more strategy and environmentally conscious thought behind it. Rather than simply filling holes with the plastic that may wear away faster than traditional road materials, MacRebur is pelletising a mix of waste plastics and adding them to existing road materials, strengthening the material used to fill potholes and create new roads.
Traditional road materials such as asphalt and bitumen are costly – road repairs are funded from the tax-payers’ purse, making innovation in this space in the greater interest of everyone and their neighbour. By adding the waste plastic pellets to the road the cost of producing the material is reduced, waste plastic is recycled effectively and the roads themselves will last longer – a win-win situation for all.
The company has conducted extensive testing into just how well these roads will perform, and has created road surfaces for lorry parks, airport runways and council roads. The company hopes that their expertise will help to change the way we build roads and recycle waste plastic in the UK, Europe and eventually worldwide, and as the 2016 winner of the Virgin Media Business Voom competition the company has gained national support for their venture. Its success in this competition has helped the team build their business from an idea to a tried and tested offering, and with its funding mission in full swing, the team seem to be on the right road to changing the way we travel for the better.