Supermarket paves using recycled bags

Supermarket chain Meijer has been trying a recycled polymer modified asphalt (RPMA) parking lot at its supercentre store in Holland, Michigan.

The three-phase pilot project used approximately 12,500 pounds of post-consumer recycled plastic (PCR), which is equivalent to 944,000 plastic grocery bags.

This project brings recycled plastic bags full circle, and also represents a long-term collaboration between two Michigan companies working toward a more sustainable future.

“Meijer operates under the philosophy that to be a good company, we must be a good neighbor and that often means working with other like-minded companies on a common goal,” said Rick Keyes, president and CEO of Meijer.

“We are committed to lessening our impact on the environment and are pleased to partner with our customers and Dow in the largest in-state project of this kind to better demonstrate our commitment to a circular economy through recycling and reusing plastic to better ensure a more sustainable future.”

All of the recycled plastic used for the parking lot pilot project was deposited by Meijer customers through the retailer’s in-store plastic film recycling program. In 2014, Meijer placed a collection bin inside the front entrances of each of its stores for customers to deposit clean, dry plastic bags and films, including single use, bread, dry cleaning, produce and water softener bags. This year, Meijer expects to recycle six million pounds of plastics through this program.

Using by Reactive Elastomeric Terpolymer (RET) technology from Dow, these RPMA projects have better durability than unmodified asphalt.

“This is an exciting partnership from start to finish and a perfect example of how the plastics used to keep food safe and fresh, like bread bags, can have a new life as infrastructure like a parking lot,” said CJ DuBois, North American Paving Application Development Leader, Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics.

“Our collaboration with Meijer began two years ago. This RPMA parking lot made with recycled content and our ELVALOY RET is just one example of how we’re continually creating new technologies and initiatives to transform used plastics into functional and valuable solutions.”

This pilot project incorporated numerous partners to take the recycled plastics and turn them into a resurfaced parking lot. PADNOS, a materials recycler, aggregated the Meijer recycled plastics, and converted them into usable PCR content. K-Tech Specialty Coatings, an asphalt emulsion company, modified the base asphalt binder with ELVALOY RET and PCR content. Rieth-Riley, the construction contractor, produced the final hot-mix asphalt and paved the Meijer parking lot and gas station.

The pilot parking lot project with Meijer isn’t a first for Dow. The company began working on these projects in Indonesia in 2017, partnering with the Indonesian government towards its goal of reducing plastic waste in the ocean by 70 percent by 2025.

In August 2021, Dow completed a RPMA  public street at The University of Missouri. Prior to this, Dow completed two RPMA roads at Dow’s Freeport, Texas site, two roads at the Dow Sabine River Operations where ELVALOY RET is produced and four public roads and two parking lots in the Great Lakes Bay Region of Michigan – totaling approximately 14,000 pounds or more than 1 million plastic bags.

These RPMA projects are just a sample of efforts helping Dow reach its 2030 target to enable one million metric tons of plastic to be collected, reused or recycled through its direct actions and partnerships.