Plastic can pave the way

Floor show: Michael Walker adjusts the injection-moulding machine making Rpave paving and ground reinforcement system at R3 Products in Ecclesfield.                                Pictures: DEAN ATKINS
Floor show: Michael Walker adjusts the injection-moulding machine making Rpave paving and ground reinforcement system at R3 Products in Ecclesfield. Pictures: DEAN ATKINS
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Prepare to take the strain, concrete. Plastic is bidding to chip away at your markets, with a little help from Sheffield-based R3 Products.

We may not be about to see plastic replace structural concrete in the construction industry.

However, we might just see it used increasingly instead of some concrete components and it doesn’t stop there, since plastic sheeting could also end up being used as a recyclable alternative to plywood.

Ecclesfield-based R3 is already notching up successes at home and abroad with an innovative, permeable paving product, made from recycled plastic, called Rpave.

Lightweight, durable and weatherproof, interlocking squares of Rpave are being used instead of heavier, more obtrusive and less environmentally-friendly concrete alternatives to stabilise soil, allowing grass to grow through, or to create parking bays, filled with gravel.

Rpave’s patented interlocking design, developed after a suggestion from one of its employees, is also beating continental competitors, thanks to the fact that individual squares of Rpave can be easily removed, replaced and relocated while whole areas of the competitor’s product have to be taken up.

Meanwhile, R3’s plastic sheets, ranging in size from two to 12 millimetres thick, are being used as a reusable and recyclable alternative to plywood shuttering when pouring concrete on construction sites, as an easily cleaned, chicken-friendly lining for hen coops.

The fact that the sheets can be welded together to form structures has led to an important contract from the Middle East where 12mm thick sheets are being used to line ponds of contaminated water that has been used to extract oil from wells, before it is cleaned up.

But, R3 is likely to take its biggest bite out of ‘King Concrete’s’ market with the system it has developed to turn materials, including waste plastic bottles, damaged car bumpers and disposable nappies into solid kerbing for housing and industrial estates and B roads.

More than three billion nappies are thrown away in the UK each year and most of the material they are made of – including the absorbent fibre inside – is plastic.