Axion completes first recycled composite bridge in Europe

Axion International Holdings Inc. has applied its Recycled Structural Composite technology to the construction of bridge over the River Tweed at Easter Dawyck near Edinburgh, Scotland.

Axion International Holdings Inc. (New Providence, N.J., USA), developer of Recycled Structural Composite (RSC) technology used to produce Ecotrax railroad ties as well as Struxure building materials, announced on Dec. 7 the completion of Europe’s first recycled plastic bridge. The materials for the bridge consisted of Axion’s RSC material, which is designed from 100 percent recycled plastic.

The bridge was prefabricated in the United States at Axion’s plant in Portland, Pa., and was transported to Scotland via container ship. It now spans the River Tweed at Easter Dawyck, near Edinburgh, Scotland, and forms part of the historic John Buchan Way. The bridge, which consists of three spans, is approximately 12 ft wide by 90 ft long (3.6m by 27.4m) and was used to replace an old steel beam and timber deck road bridge. The bridge was shipped in six sections (two per span), and due to its pre-fab design the entire construction project (including dismantling of the old wood and steel bridge) was completed in less than two weeks. The erection of the new plastic bridge itself took only four days within that timeframe.

Construction of the bridge was completed on schedule, before Scotland’s winter season, by a team from Glendinning Groundworks Ltd., a Scottish contractor, and 10 Field Squadron (Air Support), Royal Engineers. Axion coordinated with its partners Vertech Ltd. and Sicut Holding Ltd., in addition to Dawyck Estates, specialist bridge designer Cass Hayward LLP, Cardiff University’s School of Engineering and Rutgers University’s AAMIPP Department – with support from the Welsh Assembly Government – to make the project a reality. Being made from plastic, the bridge won’t rot, rust or corrode, and requires no painting or regular maintenance. In addition, the bridge is 100 percent recyclable at the end of its useful life.

“Axion couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of this historic project in Scotland, producing Europe’s first plastic recycled bridge,” stated Steve Silverman, Axion’s president and CEO. “This project validates our strategy to deploy Axion’s building materials using our prefabrication concept to reduce on site downtime and costs, creating a more value added proposition for our customers. By taking advantage of our material’s strong, yet light-weight nature, we were able to cost-effectively ship the entire span to Scotland, and then complete construction onsite in just two weeks. The remarkably fast erection time of only four days for a 90-ft bridge is a major benefit of our unique composite material, as it substantially reduces the complexity and cost of construction, and is good for the environment as well. Now that Europe’s first recycled plastic bridge is complete, we look forward to pursuing additional opportunities throughout the region.”

The previous bridge was supported by two masonry–built piers and abutments, which were still in good condition and were kept in place to support the new bridge. The clear span is 28 ft/8.5m between piers resulting in three effective spans at 30 ft/9.1m, representing the longest single spans yet constructed using this material. The bridge has been designed to meet European standards with a load rating of 45 metric tons, thus allowing construction projects to be initiated in a similar manner throughout the continent.

Developed in conjunction with Rutgers University’s Materials Sciences and Engineering Department, Axion’s proprietary RSC material is inert and contains no toxic materials. It is impervious to insect infestation, will never leach toxic chemicals nor warp. Because it is lighter than traditional materials, transporting RSC is less expensive and reduces energy costs. In addition, Axion’s products are completely recyclable at the end of their functional life.