Recycling of plastic bottles for use as a lightweight geotechnical material

Andrew J. Graettinger (Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA)
Philip W. Johnson (Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA)
Pramodh Sunkari (Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA)
Matthew C. Duke (Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA)
Jonathan Effinger (Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA)

Management of Environmental Quality

ISSN: 1477-7835

Publication date: 1 December 2005

Abstract

Purpose

Geotechnical fills are used for building roadway embankments, filling in behind retaining walls, and as backfill above buried pipelines. Lightweight fill reduces the load so structures can be built more economically. A new lightweight geo‐material made from recycled plastic bottles glued together in their original post‐consumer form was developed. The purpose of this work is to explore the use of this new material as a lightweight geotechnical fill.

Design/methodology/approach

Through a preliminary laboratory and field study, aspects of the physical and mechanical characteristics of the recycled plastic bottle blocks were investigated. This new material is currently undergoing field trials behind a retaining wall on a bicycle path.

Findings

It was found that the average density of this new material is very low, at 32.63 kg/m3 (2.04 lb/ft3), with 59.5 percent of a block made up of recycled plastic bottles. The plastic bottle waste stream obtained from a recycling plant is gap‐graded having approximately 25 percent of the bottle volume at the 2 l bottle size with the remaining 75 percent at the 500 ml bottle size. Unconfined compression tests on small ten‐bottle samples produced strengths of 60 kN/m2 (1,250 lb/ft2).

Practical implications

Testing indicates that this material may be useful as a lightweight geotechnical fill over soft soils or behind retaining walls; as an energy‐absorbing crash barrier for highway, race track, or airport safety; as ground and building insulation for Arctic construction; as floating barriers or platforms for offshore work; or for acoustic or vibration dampening for manufacturing processes.

Originality/value

This work explores the use of large volumes of recycled plastic bottles as an environmentally friendly geotechnical engineering material. Engineering parameters for this new material are presented as well as a discussion of an ongoing field study. The information presented here is the first step in understanding this new material with respect to civil engineering applications.

Keywords

Citation

Graettinger, A., Johnson, P., Sunkari, P., Duke, M. and Effinger, J. (2005), "Recycling of plastic bottles for use as a lightweight geotechnical material", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 16 No. 6, pp. 658-669. https://doi.org/10.1108/14777830510623727

Download as .RIS

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.