The Netherlands Is Paving the Way in Toilet Paper Infrastructure
A parking lot and stretch of highway made from recycled toilet paper help move a portion of the sludge out of the wastewater stream.
Maintaining cycling infrastructure is a matter of course in the Netherlands, a country boasting 35,000 kilometers of bicycle paths. Still, the Dutch province of Friesland managed to make waves when it re-paved a bicycle highway last fall.
A 1-kilometer stretch of the bike roadway connecting the Frisian capital of Leeuwarden to the town of Stiens has the distinction of being the world’s first bicycle lane paved with toilet paper. Recycled toilet paper, that is.
Most roads in the Netherlands are paved with a blacktop called open-graded asphalt friction course (OGFC), which is porous and water permeable. Compared to more run-of-the-mill types of asphalt, OGFC requires higher volumes of bitumen, which binds together the stones and sand that make up the asphalt. Cellulose is added to thicken the mixture and prevent the bitumen from dripping off the aggregate during processing, transportation, and paving.
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Ernst Worrell, professor of energy, resources, and technological change at Utrecht University, said:
“When roads get wet, [they get] slippery, so we use this asphalt because it takes water away from the road surface quicker”
Wicking water from the road is an important safety measure for a country that sees 27 to 35 inches of rainfall per year.
Meanwhile, the Dutch flush an estimated 180,000 tons of toilet paper annually. That paper makes its way to wastewater treatment plants, where it’s filtered out with the rest of the solids. The resulting sludge is dried and incinerated.
Aside from producing large amounts of CO2, the incineration process destroys many valuable resources found in wastewater, one of which is cellulose.
Erik Pijlman, director at KNN Cellulose one of the partners on the project said:
“The bicycle path uses what’s called tertiary cellulose, extracted from waste streams. We take the cellulose out of these streams and once again make it into a [raw material]”
Main photo source: Green Living