From the garbage dump to the highway
Ecopals produces asphalt from plastic waste
October 25, 2023, 11:59 a.m
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In Germany, a large proportion of our plastic waste still ends up in incinerators. Jonas Varga and Torsten Müller want to put an end to this. In “So techt Deutschland” they talk about how plastic waste can help with road construction.
Plastic waste is a global evil. But what if plastic is the key to a more sustainable infrastructure future?
Jonas Varga was part of an association in Nepal that helped with a variety of projects after the devastating earthquake in 2015. One of them focused on recycling plastic waste. “The challenge on site was the lack of infrastructure for collecting, sorting and processing waste,” says Varga – and also the lack of or poor roads. This is exactly where he sets his startup Ecopals to: Varga wants to use old plastic in road construction and thus make roads more durable.
“We already had a project on this in 2010,” says Torsten Müller from the Fraunhofer Society. In the “Fraunhofer Cluster Plastics Economy”, Müller is concerned with the variety of plastics and how they can be recycled. When Varga and his team presented their asphalt idea, Müller was immediately on board: “We needed a business model and that’s what Jonas developed,” says the researcher. According to him, it is not a new idea to use plastic in road construction, although it is mostly virgin material.
However, the idea was initially met with skepticism. “The set of rules according to which we build roads in Germany is not particularly open,” explains Varga. Müller also knows: “The official follows the rules. That’s the problem.” Together they not only have to develop a technology, but also overcome bureaucratic hurdles.
There are now 25 larger and smaller projects, reports Varga. Jonas Varga and Torsten Müller tell us in the new episode of “So techt Deutschland” how he and his team want to overcome the hurdles and whether asphalt made from old plastic will become the norm at some point.
In “So techt Deutschland” the ntv presenters Frauke Holzmeier and Andreas Laukat ask founders, investors, politicians and entrepreneurs about the state of Germany as a technology location.