Dow and Shiny Meadow making roads from milk bottles in China

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

Dow and Chinese dairy company Shiny Meadow partnered on a project to see recycled milk bottles used in road construction. Pic: Getty Images/ zhaojiankang
Dow and Chinese dairy company Shiny Meadow partnered on a project to see recycled milk bottles used in road construction. Pic: Getty Images/ zhaojiankang

Related tags Sustainability Plastic bottles Milk Recycling China

Dow and Chinese dairy company Shiny Meadow have partnered to divert plastic waste from the environment.

In China's first ever "plastic road" project, the companies utilized used milk bottles to construct a road made with recycled plastic, giving hard-to-recycle plastic a second life.

Dow said it is committed to enable 1m tons of plastic to be collected, reused, or recycled through its direct actions and partnerships by 2030.

The Milk Bottle Road was unveiled at East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST) Xuhui Campus. Enabled by Dow's ELVALOY RET asphalt modification technology, more than 6,000 used milk bottles and other plastic wastes were used to pave the polymer-modified asphalt (PMA) road. Dow said roads made with PMA demonstrate excellent performance and durability as compared to conventional neat asphalt.

Although milk bottles are easily recycled, recyclers are often reluctant to take in such waste due to the high rate of contamination caused by leftover milk residue. To help dairy brands like Shiny Meadow give plastic milk bottles a new purpose, Dow presented a solution through which such hard-to-recycle plastic is collected and used to produce PMA postconsumer recycled plastic for roads and other pavement. By doing so, plastic waste is kept out of the environment, and the reduction in the use of bitumen as well as the potential service life extension of the roads will in turn reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.

"Hard-to-recycle plastic are often discarded in landfills and waterways without consideration for its value in other applications. The importance of plastics must be an impetus for brand owners, recyclers and other value chain partners to prevent it from being lost as waste,"​ said Bambang Candra, Asia Pacific commercial vice president, Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics.

"Using our materials science expertise, we help bring a new purpose to waste bottles. Our work with Shiny Meadow to create roads using their recycled plastic milk bottles has proven to be a success, and we hope to empower other brand owners to reduce plastic waste."

"We are pleased to have found a meaningful use for our empty bottles,” ​said Lin Rong, brand director of Shiny Meadow.

“At Shiny Meadow, we uphold the vision of a more sustainable earth, and this includes ensuring that the plastic products we use have a circular journey instead of the traditional take-make-use path. While we are already using recyclable packaging materials in our production, there remains a gap in addressing the bottles' end-of-life as low-quality plastic products are unvalued by recycling companies. In promoting recycled plastic content for roads, Dow has provided us with a solution that will go a long way,"

Prof. Li Tao, vice president of ECUST, said, "The university is delighted to see the construction of the "Milk Bottle Road" come to fruition today. As a tertiary institution focused on science and innovation, this collaboration gives us an actualized example of how we can tackle plastic waste in unique ways. We hope that this inspires our students to explore more unconventional solutions in the area of sustainability, and to bring their creative applications to an even greater scale within our community.”

Dow began improving roads with recycled plastic in Depok City, Indonesia in 2017 to help the Indonesian government reach its goal of reducing plastic waste in the ocean by 70% by 2025.

Following that trial, Dow turned to India, where it worked with KK Plastic Waste Management, Ltd., Rudra Environmental Solutions and two local governments to implement roads improved by plastic in the cities of Pune and Bangalore. Most recently, Dow began a collaboration with Siam Cement Group in Thailand to begin improving asphalt roads with plastic.