Public Works: Making Asphalt Greener
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Public Works: Making Asphalt Greener

A Toronto company is helping make Vancouver roadwork a little more eco-friendly.

Public Works looks at public space, urban design, and city-building innovations from around the world, and considers what Toronto might learn from them.

A Vancouver crew uses GreenMantra's product to pave a road. Photo courtesy of GreenMantra.

Sometimes a new idea has to make it big somewhere else before it is accepted at home.

Toronto company GreenMantra Technologies is working with the City of Vancouver to incorporate its eco-friendly material into the asphalt used to pave roads. The material, a type of industrial wax, is doubly good for the environment.

First, it allows asphalt to be heated at 20 to 40 degrees less than is necessary when using the traditional “hot mix” method. This reduces the amount of fuel necessary for the process, which in turn reduces the resulting greenhouse-gas production by as much as 50 per cent. Second, although there are other paving materials that have similar characteristics, they’re normally made of petroleum products. GreenMantra’s product comes from recycled plastics.

The wax is slightly more expensive than petroleum-based materials, but GreenMantra and the City of Vancouver are looking to bring down the cost by sourcing cheaper plastic. The price could also drop of its own accord, as GreenMantra begins to produce the stuff in greater quantities.

Karlis Vasarais, business development manager at GreenMantra, says that Vancouver approached the company after learning about the wax, and the two have been working in partnership as part of Vancouver’s drive to become the greenest city in the world by 2020.

Toronto authorities have been less proactive. Vasarais says that there hasn’t been any contact with the City as yet. However, GreenMantra plans to work with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to test the product in several municipalities in Ontario in 2013 under the program name, “Blue Box to Green Roads.”

After that, the company would probably look into the possibility of approaching Toronto, to assess interest.

From here, it looks like a no-brainer—an environmental win that would also support a local business. Here’s hoping it looks the same way from City Hall.