Startup aims to keep plastic out of landfills and waterways by using it for pavement
What if instead of petroleum-based materials, our roads and sidewalks were paved with recycled plastic diverted from a landfill? At Delaware Ohio startup necoPlastics, they’re working to make that a reality. The company has developed a way to turn recycled plastic into a material that can be used as an alternative to traditional concrete or asphalt.
“At its core, we’re a recycling company that helps governments, citizens and corporations divert their plastic waste from landfills and waterways,” said necoPlastics founder and CEO Steve Flaherty. “We make new uses for plastic waste with technology that creates a recycled concrete and asphalt substance that can be used for roads, parking lots, building structures and more.”
Not only is the new substance partially made from recycled material, but necoPlastics has developed a unique hot-mix asphalt process that combines plastic with traditional rock to create an added elasticity. The added plastics actually make the pavement stronger and more durable than traditional asphalt, allowing necoPlastics’ material to require less petroleum use and upkeep.
“Our product creates an increase in structural strength, weighs less and has greater longevity than current materials,” said Flaherty. “The initial tests of our asphalt show a 60 percent increase in longevity. That translates to a lower total cost of a building, road or parking lot.”
The improved performance of the asphalt is a bonus but isn’t the company’s main goal. necoPlastics was born out of the need for improved plastic recycling, an idea Flaherty feels passionately about. He believes plastics are among the top three problems facing the world in 2019 and wants to contribute solutions.
“The big goal for us is keeping plastics out of landfills and helping energize the rest of the industry to make more sustainable choices,” said Flaherty. “That goes hand-in-hand with the recycling efforts, but it’s really focused on working with companies to use plastics to create a loop where their product is being made from their own recycled products.”
The company is working with the U.S. Green Building Council and other nationwide organizations to explore expansion. They’ve also been selected for the CleanTech Open, a five-month accelerator leading to a clean technology summit and competition in Los Angeles.
Flaherty said Ohio is home to a combination of available recycling patents, asphalt manufacturers and startup resources, making it the ideal place to begin necoPlastics’ revolution. The company’s headquarters at the Delaware Entrepreneurial Center at Ohio Wesleyan University — a partnership between the university, the City of Delaware and Delaware County — serves as a perfect home.
“As far as we’re aware, it’s the first center in the country to be a combination between a county government, a city government and a higher-education institution,” said Flaherty. “They created an innovation center to help fuel entrepreneurship and startups and be an innovation hub for Delaware County. It’s the fastest growing county in Ohio with some of the top schools, and a lot of development and momentum.”