The California State Senate Committee on Transportation today unanimously approved Senate Bill 580 by Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) that would the task the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) with conducting a study assessing the feasibility, cost-effectiveness and lifecycle environmental benefits of including recycled plastics in asphalt used for the construction and repair of a state highway or road. The idea for SB 580 was brought to Sen. Hueso by students from Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista.
“It’s really rewarding to know that a small pebble that we tossed into the pond at a meeting with Senator Hueso over two years ago has morphed into a bill that could change the world of plastic recycling,” said Bryce Garrod, President of the Bonita Vista High School Progressive Club. “As they say, ‘as goes California, so goes the rest of the country.’ It would be very humbling if this process works and a group of high school kids could say ‘Hey, we made a difference in our world.’”
Prior to 2018, the state was sending two-thirds of its recyclable materials to China. After beginning to cut back on its recyclable imports, the Chinese government announced that, in 2018, it would be banning almost all plastic trash imports. This shift has led to loss of markets and a surplus of unrecycled plastic in California, which is now either burned or sitting in a landfill.
“As a leader on environmental justice issues, California is uniquely positioned to innovate the transportation industry by introducing new technology that could revolutionize the way we look at recycled plastic,” said Sen. Hueso. “This bill would simultaneously address two of our state’s most pervasive issues – reducing our plastic waste and fixing our roads.”
Municipalities across the world have engaged in similar projects to counter plastic pollution. In 2012, Vancouver, Canada reported they would be incorporating blue box plastic waste as an asphalt wax additive. In 2015, the City of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, announced its plan to factory produce recycled plastic segments for road construction. And, in 2019, University of California, San Diego had the first road in the US with recycled plastics in its asphalt mix placed on campus.
SB 580 will next be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee.