Netherlands based tech firm repaves bicycle roads with toilet paper
Waste Reduction

With its 35,000 kilometers of cycling paths, the Netherlands is well known for being one of the world’s most bicycle friendly countries. While the state’s support for cycling infrastructure is already most commendable in terms of eco-friendliness, the Dutch province of Friesland is going one step further with a new method of lane pavement using recycled toilet paper. The 1 kilometer stretch of bikeway from Leeuwarden to Stiens is the first of its kind.

An estimated 180,000 tons of toilet paper are flushed in the Netherlands annually, which normally makes its way through wastewater treatments plants to be filtered out as solids, then incinerated. Rather than allowing them to go to waste, and worst, to contribute to more carbon emissions, the tech company KNN Cellulose saw the opportunity to use the valuable resource of tertiary cellulose from the waste streams.

This is done by sifting the paper fibers out of wastewater using a 0.35 millimeter industrial sieve, then processing them through a series of machines to sterilize, bleach, and dry the fibers, resulting in a fluffy gray material. It is important that the resulting material is porous in a similar nature to existing asphalt used. “When roads get wet, [they get] slippery, so we use this asphalt because it takes water away from the road surface quicker,” says Ernst Worrell, professor of energy, resources, and technological change at Utrecht University.

Repairing all roadways in the Netherlands would require 15,000 tons of fiber – more than toilet paper alone could supply. However, if the project is expanded to recycle other sources of wasted cellulose such as diapers and beverage cartons, green roads may be just around the corner.


Sources: Citylab, Inhabitat