New Breakthroughs in the Use of Recycled Plastic

Pouring concrete at construction site

Plastic recycling rates are improving every year, with advancements in technologies as well as increased awareness of the issue fuelling the action. A new study has suggested that recycled plastic drinks bottles could be used to create stronger, more flexible concrete for our buildings, bridges and roads. 

Concrete Jungles

Second only to water, concrete is one of the most widely used materials on Earth and the manufacture of it creates up to 5% of worldwide CO2 emissions. Reducing the emissions created in the manufacture and use of concrete is a hot topic in the world of infrastructure research, with many recent studies into alternative materials bearing interesting results. Concrete is made with a mixture of cement, fine aggregate (typically sand), course aggregate (typically gravel) and water. Cement itself is expensive, so reducing the amount of cement in the mix is a concern for companies’ bottom lines as well as an attempt to drive down the use of limited resources. Sand is a limited resource, so finding a material that performs as well and improves sustainability and cost is a keen concern. 

Green Alternative

Students at MIT recently worked on methods to include recycled plastics as an aggregate replacement. Carolyn Schaefer and Michael Ortega initiated the project and researched previous attempts to reinforce concrete with plastics, and why those attempts weren’t successful. 

Previous attempts to introduce plastic to cement mixtures had weakened the resulting concrete, however the students worked to strengthen the plastic’s crystalline structure by exposing plastic flakes to harmless doses of gamma radiation, then pulverising the flakes into a fine powder. The powder was then mixed with fly ash, a waste product of coal combustion, to create a stronger concrete than conventional methods. 

Stronger, Better

The irradiated plastic was found to have a stronger molecular structure than standard plastic, as well as blocking pores in the concrete and making the mixture denser and stronger. The students have begun experimenting with different types of recycled plastic products in a hope to improve on their findings with plastic bottles. The current findings show that using just 1.5% recycled plastic significantly improves the strength of concrete as well as reducing the carbon footprint and costings. A fantastic win-win situation for such a commonly-used product. 

Reducing the environmental impact of plastic is one of our goals, we can help you create a product that fulfils your sustainability targets without compromising on style, structure or strength.  At Coda Plastics, we recycle all of our waste plastic and we even take in waste plastic from other factories and use it in our products.

We have the facilities to help your product be more environmentally-friendly, for more information on any of our processes or services, contact our team at or call +44 1692 501020.

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