Solutions Summit | Feb. 2023

Michael D. Pulliam


ITALY’S ROAD REVOLUTION

A road construction company in Italy has created a type of asphalt mixture that solves numerous problems at once: longer lifespan for asphalt roads, simpler and cheaper road maintenance, reduced noise from vehicle tires, recoverable paving materials, and a non-polluting use for hard plastics.

Mariella Giannattasio, CEO of Italy-based road construction company Iterchimica, was concerned about the impacts of her region’s waste-to-energy plant incinerating large amounts of non-recyclable plastic. So Giannattasio and her collaborators conducted a six-year research and development project which culminated in a new product: Gipave, an asphalt additive made with non-recyclable plastics. “… We found a solution that made all that plastic useful again.”

Asphalt is a compound material consisting of several vital ingredients. The balance of ingredients in this mixture can make road paving more or less weather resistant, durable, environmentally friendly, and expensive. When the mix includes Gipave, an ingredient about the size of a coffee bean with a small plastic core, asphalt roads can have roughly double their conventional lifespan. This significantly reduces maintenance and management costs. Biccoca University in Milan found that manufacturing Gipave resulted in a 70% decrease of greenhouse gas emissions compared to making conventional asphalt. For every kilometer of road paving laid, around 20 tons of non-recyclable plastics are diverted from landfills and incinerators. Even more, Gipave roads are 100% recyclable — each element in a Gipave road can be reclaimed and reused elsewhere. The social impacts are obvious as well: a more durable road means fewer potholes and pothole-related vehicle or bicycle incidents, as well as fewer road closures for repaving.

“Sustainability and the challenge of protecting the environment have always been part of the culture of our company,” said Giannattasio, recalling the history of the family business. “Our philosophy is to create an ever greener and more high-tech ground surfacing.”

As of October 2022, Gipave has been tested and applied in eleven locations throughout Europe including roads, bridges, and airport runways. The company currently plans to pave 466 miles (750km) of bicycle paths in Milan, and is working on technology to reuse rubber from old tires to help make Gipave roads even quieter.

Source: news48.it



WORLDWIDE MANGROVE LOSS NEARS A STOP

According to the 2022 State of the World’s Mangroves report, mangrove forests around the world have high levels of protection and thriving conditions, slowing the loss of these climate-crucial forests to almost negligible levels.

Mangrove forests are unique coastal ecosystems consisting of trees and shrubs growing in the soil between high and low tide lines (the intertidal zone). Many mangrove forests can be recognized by their ‘prop roots,’ dense tangles of long roots that make the trees look like they’re on stilts in the water. These roots are an excellent nursery habitat for numerous species of wildlife, a stabilizing force against coastal erosion, a highly efficient carbon sink, and a natural wave breaker capable of absorbing 70-90% of the kinetic energy of a tsunami.

For a few decades, worldwide mangrove forests were being lost and depleted to a nearly irreversible extent. But the average rate of forest loss in the period between 2010-2022 decreased by 600% (compared with the previous 14 years), showing that attitudes and conservation trends are almost fully protecting these ecosystems. As of the 2022 State of the World’s Mangroves report, there are only 25 square miles (66 km2) lost per year — a rate of 0.04%. The Global Mangrove Watch satellite maps calculate that about 57,000 square miles (147,000 km2) of Earth’s surface are covered in mangrove forests. And roughly 42% of all mangrove forests are under some type of protection. These benefits come from many large-scale mangrove reforestation and conservation efforts as well as climate change policies focused on aquatic ecosystem health.

The State of the World’s Mangroves report recommends a three-step plan for countries and partners called ‘Halt, Restore, Protect’: halt mangrove loss entirely, restore half of the deforestation since 1996, and double the total forest area currently under protection.

As of 2022, the largest restoration and conservation programs are happening in Senegal with nearly 80 million trees planted, Indonesia with their policy to reforest more than 2,300 square miles (6,000 km2) by 2024, and China having successfully planted 4 million trees.

Sources: Good News Network, NOAA.gov