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Midland uses modified asphalt containing recycled plastic bags to fix roads

Midland County is using asphalt made from recycled plastic bags to repair their roads.

Dow Chemical Company donated the modified asphalt to the county as part of a pilot program. 

Terry Palmer, Managing Director of the Midland County Road Commission, said Midland was able to pave three miles of road with asphalt that contained more than 300,000 recycled bags. 

“They take the plastic (with) additives to it, they convert it into a modified asphalt mix to the point where it makes a better quality when it’s all done,” Palmer said. “It appears to work exactly like a modified asphalt mix would, no difference that we can tell, typically it gives you better performance over the long term.”

Maria Sandow, supervisor for Larkin Charter Township of Midland County said the township recycling doesn’t accept plastic bags because there is no market for them. She said she hopes this road-surface repurposing could be useful benefits the area. 

“In the long run, if this test works and we are able to extend the life of our roads, and we have better quality roads, that’s better for our taxpayers,” Sandow said. “Townships have limited amount of money that they can spend on all their roads, so if this lasts longer, that means we can do more roads in a given year.”

Palmer and Sandow said the goal is to continue to use the modified asphalt on more roads next year.

Tess DeGayner is a student reporter for WCMU News. She is a senior at Central Michigan University studying Journalism and Broadcasting. Her hometown is Fenton, Michigan.