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Last modified: 15 Mar 2019
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Kouga to pioneer new road technology

11 March 2019
Gareth Nel from MacRebur SA, East Cape MPL Vicky Knoetze and Kouga Mayor Horatio Hendricks take a closer look at the pellets that are used in the asphalt mix.

Gareth Nel from MacRebur SA, East Cape MPL Vicky Knoetze and Kouga Mayor Horatio Hendricks take a closer look at the pellets that are used in the asphalt mix.

Waste plastic is turned into pellets and used to replace a portion of the bitumen in the asphalt mix .

Waste plastic is turned into pellets and used to replace a portion of the bitumen in the asphalt mix .

Kouga Municipality is pioneering a new approach to building roads which could spell the end of potholes, create jobs and help save the planet.

Horatio Hendricks, Executive Mayor of Kouga Municipality, said the local authority would be taking hands with a Scottish company and South African civil engineering experts to build the first "plastic road" in Africa.

The project was launched at Jeffreys Bay this morning (Monday, 11 March).

"The backlog in road repairs for our region is estimated to be more than R500-million. While Kouga is strong financially, we simply do not have the rates base to deal with this backlog decisively," he said.

"The DA-led Kouga Council has, therefore, been looking for innovative ways to slay this giant since taking power in the municipality in 2016."

The search led Hendricks to Vicky Knoetze, a member of the Easter Cape Legislature who first introduced  the idea of solving some of South Africa's problems through plastic roads to the Provincial Legislature in 2017. The idea was, however, rejected by the ANC, who voted against the implementation of a pilot project.

She facilitated a meeting between the municipality and Scottish innovators MacRebur, whose plastic roads have already been put to the test in the United Kingdom and other countries across the globe.

Also present were Port Elizabeth-based civil engineering and construction companies SP Excel and Scribante Construction.

"I am delighted with the outcome and that Kouga has agreed to become the first municipality in South Africa and the continent to put the technology to the test, " Knoetze said.

"Essentially we will be doing what we have done for years and will be doing till the end of days, which is building roads, just in a much more efficient and effective way."

She said what MacRebur offered, was an enhancement of the asphalt mix traditionally used for the top layer of roads. 

"Non-recyclable plastic waste, which ends up in the ocean or clogging up landfill sites, is processed into pellets and used to replace a large component of the bitumen in a conventional asphalt mix.

"It is estimated that up to 1,8 million plastic bags can be used in just one kilometre of road.

"The result is a road that is stronger and more durable. Water, the main cause of potholes, does not penetrate it as easily as with traditional asphalt mixes and it is also more heat resistant," she explained.

She said the plastic road surface was also cheaper and easier to maintain.

Hendricks said Kouga was looking forward to the potential benefits of the trial.

"Poor roads have a devastating impact on communities. It's not only a danger to motorists, it is also bad for the economy as it scares off potential investors and makes it difficult for existing businesses to ply their trade."

He said should the trial be successful, the municipality would like to see a factory being established in Kouga to produce the pellets locally.

"In this way it will be a triple win for our people - better roads, less pollution and more job opportunities."

He said a 1km-stretch of Woltemade and Koraal Streets in Jeffreys Bay has been earmarked for the trial.

"We expect work to start in about a month's time as the product has to be imported for now."

He said the trial would be done at no cost to the municipality, with the respective partners set to foot the bill.