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Recycled Plastic Bridge Supports 44 Tons

Credits: ©2011 Vertech Composites

European engineers completed a 90-foot bridge over the River Tweed in Scotland that is made completely from 50 tons of recycled plastic. It is the first thermoplastic bridge to be built outside the U.S. and is the longest plastic bridge ever built. The bridge consists of 50 tons of recycled, high-density polyethylene materials that would otherwise have been dumped in landfills. The bridge's beams are molded out of a thermoplastic composite made from post-consumer waste. It can support vehicles as heavy as 44 tons – which is heavier than most tractor trailers. Because it is made of plastic, it will never rot or rust, and will not require chemical treatment, painting, or regular maintenance, according to Vertech Composites, the Welsh firm that designed and built the bridge. The bridge is expected to have a lifespan of about 50 years. Vertech engineers worked with the Cardiff University School of Engineering and the Rutgers University Advanced Polymer Center that also helped construct a thermoplastic composite bridge at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.


Recycled Plastic Bridge Construction

Spanning the River Tweed in Peeblesshire in Scotland is the world's longest - 90 feet - thermoplastic bridge made from 50 tons of plastic. ©2011 Vertech Composites

The bridge is approximately 12 feet wide x 90 feet long and replaces an 1888 steel beam and timber deck road bridge. The original bridge was supported by two masonry piers and abutments, which were in good enough condition to remain in place to support the new bridge. The clear span is 28 feet between piers resulting in three effective spans at 30 feet, representing the longest single spans yet constructed using this unique material. The bridge has been designed to European standards to carry a load of 45 metric tons. The 100 percent recycled plastic RSC materials are manufactured by Axion, a New Jersey company.

The bridge is located on a parcel of private property near Edinburgh, Scotland. It was commissioned by Vertech Ltd and designed by architectural consulting firm Cass Hayward of Wales. The new bridge was manufactured and prefabricated in the United States at Axion’s plant in Portland, Pennsylvania. It was shipped to Liverpool via container ship and then on to Edinburgh. The bridge was shipped in six sections (two per span). It took four days to assemble, and the entire process of putting the bridge together took less than two weeks.

A plastic bridge won’t rust, doesn't need regular maintenance or painting. It's also 100 percent recyclable, so when it’s at the end of its useful life, it can be broken up and turned into something else. Vertech’s recycled thermoplastic products can be used predominantly as a replacement for timber and laminated products.


  Recycled Plastic Bridge in Wales Summary 2011 (898 kb)


Vertech Composites (UK)