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Crane lifting plastic panels into place on existing abutments over the River Tweed in Scotland
Crane lifting plastic panels into place on existing abutments over the River Tweed in Scotland
A "rubbish bridge" was built in Scotland. Don't get it wrong, cars run on it safely. Post-consumer plastic bottles had been recycled into material that was used to build Europe's first-ever plastic bridge.

With support from the Welsh Assembly Government, the project was jointly accomplished by a group of expert companies and individuals, including: Engineered composite material supplier Vertech Limited; local roads and bridge management company Dawyck Estates; specialist bridge designer Cass Hayward LLP; Cardiff University's School of Engineering; Rutgers University's Advanced Materials via Immiscible Polymer Processing Department (AAMIPP); and Axion International, a manufacturer of recycled building materials.

Tom Nosker, Professor of Rutgers University and a R&D 100 Award winner, admitted, "I have appreciated the opportunity to work on this recycled thermoplastic composite bridge very much, and appreciate the trust and confidence that has been extended by all involved to attempt this, which is probably considered by most as crazy. This bridge is the most beautiful I have worked on, and it went up in less than two weeks, which has to be some kind of a record for a 90 foot road bridge."

R&D 100 Award is an international award established since 1963 to recognize innovative industrial development. Products being awarded in the past include fax machine (1975), printer (1986), HDTV (1998), etc.

The approximately 12' wide x 90' long plastics bridge is used to replace an old steel beam and timber deck road bridge. It now spans the River Tweed at Easter Dawyck in Peeblesshire, near Edinburgh, Scotland, and forms part of the historic John Buchan Way.

According to Axion, the plastic bridge was prefabricated in the US at Axion's plant in Portland, and was transported to Scotland via container ship. It was then assembled in four days by a team from Glendinning Groundworks Ltd, a local Peeblesshire contractor, Royal Air Force's 10 Field Squadron (Air Support) and Royal Engineers.

The previous bridge was supported by two masonry-built piers and abutments, which were still in good condition and were kept in place to support the new bridge. The clear span is 28' between piers resulting in three effective spans at 30', representing the longest single spans yet constructed using this recycled plastics. The bridge has been designed to meet European standards with a load rating of 45 metric tons.

Being made from plastics, the new bridge won't rust, requires no painting or regular maintenance, according to Axion. It is 100% recyclable, but safe to bet that the bridge probably lives longer than the current generations.

Robert Lark, Cardiff University's Deputy Director of School of Engineering, said that the project was "a unique opportunity to contribute to the development and assessment of a truly sustainable construction material".

He said that the initiative had the potential to deliver durable, low maintenance alternatives to traditional structures manufactured from recycled waste, the benefits of which should be far reaching both economically, socially and environmentally.

William Mainwaring, co-founder and CEO of Vertech Limited, hopes that this example can be used around Europe, as it makes better use of plastic waste, which may otherwise be sent to landfill or shipped to China.

This adds to the proof that with proper recycling strategy, the power of plastics goes far beyond imagination.
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Recent Comment
Preetam Penmetsa
Great accomplishment which I am sure will go a long way in turning our planet green. My congratulations to the entire team - Preetam
Joginder Singh Anand
Congratulations to all for marvellous task of converting waste plastics (itself a big task to mange) to an extremely useful product for mass utilisation with several inherent advantages over steel, wood, concrete etc. In developing countries including India, many remote areas need to be connected by small bridges for local natives use. Plenty manpower is available to collect waste in the country. However, additional information is needed to explore further;
i) can dirty soiled plastic waste can be used without further cleaning and segregation?
ii) Can reinforced plastics waste with glass fibres, talc and other organic or inorganic materials be clubbed in the waste?
ii) cost of the bridge say per sq. ft.
iii) Is the machinery to manufacture the parts of the bridge is complicated and or expensive?
Looking forward to have the information as mentioned above.


Dr. J. S. Anand
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