We kick off a four-part series on Hawaii DOT's effort to use locally recycled plastic in their asphalt pavements. In Part 1, we are joined by Ed Sniffen, Director of Hawaii DOT to get some background on this project.
AASHTO re:source Q&A Podcast Transcript
Season 4, Episode 1: Paving with Recycled Plastic – Hawaii’s Pilot Project - Part 1
Recorded: November 16, 2022
Released: May 30, 2023
Hosts: Brian Jonson, AASHTO Accreditation Program Manager; Kim Swanson, Communications Manager, AASHTO re:source
Guest: Ed Sniffen, Director of the Hawaii Department of Transportation
Transcription is auto-generated.
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00:00:02 ANNOUNCER: Welcome to AASHTO resource Q & A. We're taking time to discuss construction materials testing, and inspection with people in the know. From exploring testing problems and solutions to laboratory best practices and quality management, we're covering topics important to you. Now here's our host, Brian Johnson.
00:00:21 BRIAN: Welcome to AASHTO resource Q&A. I'm Brian Johnson.
00:00:24 KIM: And I'm Kim Swanson and we are starting a very special series. Brian, do you want to shed some light on that?
00:00:31 BRIAN: I do. We had an episode on Resiliency or Resilience and it was focused on some improvements that have been made to concrete. So, we talked about Ultra high-performance concrete and how it's used in designing for a more resilient transportation system. And I thought, you know we covered a lot on concrete, we should touch something asphalt. So, let's look at what's going on in asphalt here. We are. I find Ed Sniffen's name again. I do a project we just talked to Ed about resilience of the transportation system in Hawaii and this pops up. So, I wanted to get Ed back on to talk about what's going on in this project. So if you didn't listen to the other one, go back and listen to it. But we've got Ed Sniffen. He's the director of the Hawaii dot and he's chair of the AASHTO Committee on Transportation System Security and Resilience. We did have mine recently and it is really connected to that topic of resilience that we covered before.
00:01:33 BRIAN: But one thing that Hawaii dot is taking on is trying to change the way they use materials to help with resilience and help deal with this. Issue of plastics that are in the oceans surrounding Hawaii, which has become a big problem there. So, Ed, welcome to the podcast once again with that very long introduction.
00:01:56 ED: Ohh thanks so much for having me.
00:01:58 BRIAN: All right, Ed. So, I gave people a little intro there. Long intro there. Can you tell us about the effort that we're talking about today?
00:02:07 ED: Yeah, absolutely for us this is our never-ending quest to be greener in our operations. When we started looking back in 2015 looking back at our pavements on our system. So that every seven to 10 years, we have to rip out that upper layer and process another layer in all of it is CO2 into. So we tried to see how we can do better. We started using better materials and making sure that we reconstructed roadways rather than just putting in a mill and fill. And that's helped us tremendously in ensuring that we don't have to do as much work as CO2 intensive as often. And now that. We starting to use stone matrix, asphalt, and polymer. Modified asphalts. It's going to give us that 2020 to 25-year life that we're looking for. We want to look at the next level. Now initially we started off on the concrete side. We started looking at putting waste products CO2 into our concrete to make it better. We increased the strength of the concrete that allow us to decrease the cement by weight in our mix that give us a double dose of reduction of CO2 to get greener concrete in place. Contractors loved it, was more workable. We loved it because it is a cost.
00:03:15 ED: Usual thing but allowed us to remove CO2 from the environment and remove CO2 from our operations. They wanted to do it on the asphalt side and when we start looking at asphalt as you. Mentioned we pull tons of trash plastic waste out of our oceans annually, these of which are Nets a lot of fishing Nets that come through and we start looking at those materials. We wanted to see how. We could repurpose them rather than burning them. At our landfills or burying them how we repurpose them to making our pavements better. We started working with national. The States of California and the like to ensure that we could start building on something out there. And they said, hey, we tried these plastics and pavement, you know, this is something that might work for you. So we built on the information that they had worked with our universities here at the University of Hawaii and Hawaii Pacific University.
00:04:03 ED: To see how we could build a program here that would allow us to put our waste in our pavements, but we don't have the processing centers here yet. So of course, we kicked off this pilot to do this portion here and start running our test samples with the material that's already commercially available. Once we work this out the end goal is to make sure we set up a plant here that can. Process all the waste in Hawaii to be used in our pavements.
00:04:27 BRIAN: That's such a great goal. How is it going so far?
00:04:30 ED: This is good. Well, the first step for us was to make sure that uh could pull in a bunch of samples to ensure that they could do their dynamic testing on it. Of course, we don't want to put in any payment that's going to fail and. Right. So they did their dynamic testing to make sure that we could take the loads and the easels that we expect to get over a life of that pavement. And it worked. Out, well, whole Pacific University jumped in to make sure that they could test it to ensure that the plastics wouldn't migrate out of the pavement. The last thing again we want is a pavement that's going to start degrading into our environment. Both of those tests that will run give us favorable results that allows us to move forward now for real tests. So we paved out a mile of roadway near the ocean on our ever plans in an area that we needed to replace anywhere. This was not like extra work or anything. This was part of our replacement process. Yes, with that one. Mile, we also ran other sections with.
00:05:23 ED: Higher degrees of. Reclaimed asphalt to give us another potential for greening our operation. So we can test them both. At the same time and. We chose this area specifically because we could control the loading in the area. We control the testing and if we. Had to shut. Down portions of the roadway to run tests or repair it wouldn't be significant impacts to the public.
00:05:42 KIM: When did the idea for this happen? And then when did the actual paving of this pilot come? Like what was that time frame?
00:05:50 ED: The time frame was about a year because we worked with LA County and their engineers there who had. Done some work already. We wanted to make sure that we built on that information and also ran a bunch of laboratory tests before we even put it on the environment. So we had to make sure we did our due diligence. The last thing I wanted was for people to think I'm pushing the environment with anything we're doing, especially we're trying to move things forward from This perspective. We were mindful of the time frame we wanted to make sure we minimize the time frame to push it out because the test pilot. That's going to have to occur. But we're also mindful of our due diligence to ensure the public safety in all of this. So the very year that we came up with the idea to the point that we started the, the construction, the great thing is we had a partner in the painting industry, great specific, those ready and willing to move forward on things. They've already helped us pilot the SMA in our system and peer in our system. So they said that this is the next. Phase. Let's go. So it's really good.
00:06:48 KIM: That's awesome. That's way shorter than I thought it was going to be. I was expecting years. So when you said a year I was surprised on that. What's the process now kind of moving forward that you have it paved. How long is the test period going to be? And then when are you going to either? Move to the next step or determine what the next step is or any of that. So what's the? Time frame kind. Of moving forward for now.
00:07:10 ED: Yes, so these. Are the moving pieces now we're going to make? Sure that we have our test strip in place. We're going to load it over the next year with different loadings, make sure that we check it for cracking and running and such to ensure that it performs the way any asphalt pavement work or better. And in that time frame, we're applying for discretionary funding to start pushing forward. On the plant side. Again, it was awesome that we could use commercially available material to move forward on this pilot sooner rather than later. But just between us, I'd much rather process our own trash into our pavement rather than somebody else's, so the next phases are to push forward on the processing piece while we're getting ready for putting in. More plastic pave. And now once we proof it over this next year, we'll be ready to move on the next phases. But I would love for that plant to be ready to start giving us that material locally driven versus bringing in material from other states.
00:08:03 BRIAN: I was wondering about the funding for that. So is this something that would fall under the IJA for one of the special project funding measures?
00:08:12 ED: We're applying for discretionary grant funding for all of these under protect funds and carbon reduction. This program qualifies for all of those. We were successful with HP in getting a $500,000 grant to kick off the manufacturing portion of the study of the manufacturing portion. So, there's interest from the federal government and I love getting that first small grant because. You're kind of committed now, right? I mean, if you funded the small piece, the next piece is if it makes sense should be pretty successful in getting additional funding. All in, we're thinking about 6 to 8,000,000 that it would cost to set up this pilot plant for us to get locally sourced material into. Then, hopefully we can convince other manufacturers that it's beneficial to come to Hawaii because this is going to be our payment. From now on, we're not going to have to say this is a plastic pavement. AC payment is going to be. Plastic. That's it.
00:09:00 BRIAN: This is going to be so interesting because I'm curious to hear how it works out and how that plastic is going to behave. There's certainly some risks when you try anything new, but you already described some of the ways that you've kind of. Been careful about the selection of where you're doing it and some of the ways that you're doing it so that if things don't go as planned, you'll be able to take care of it. So let's say worst case scenario, that part fails. What would you do?
00:09:26 ED: So worst case scenario, if the performance doesn't meet up to our expectations, or if the leaching occurs in any of the test samples and the like. Worst case scenario will remove that portion of pavement. We'll replace it with SM or PMA materials that we know works well. That gives us that that longer lasting life that already gives us some CO2 reduction anyway, we'll replace it with that. Then we go back to the drawing board because it's not something I want to quit on. This is something that we know works that we know it can work. And then we know that. We got to make work. Just give it all the waste that we're pulling out of the ocean. So, we go back to the drawing board, see. How we can? Make it better and try it on another area.
00:10:04 KIM: So that was the worst-case scenario. What's your best-case scenario for this?
00:10:09 ED: The best-case scenario it all works out. Testing works out well. We can get our plant up in three years. Then we start with production with, with our plastics and pavement throughout the state. So anywhere we would be replacing pavement throughout the state or building new road. It will be with. Plastics in that pavement. So the three-year time frame is the target right now and that's dependent on the funding that we could have in place, making sure that we have the space available and of course making sure that our partners in industry will adopt it as well.
00:10:37 BRIAN: One other thing I was wondering about because of the fishnets are HP. Have you thought about any other uses or repurposing of that that type of material that could be something that is used by the DOT?
00:10:49 ED: So going back to concrete, uh, looking at plastic rebar and there's other agencies that are already piloting those types of things. So if we can get that plant first to do all of the pellets that we need for AC, we could also look at plastic rebar or concrete materials that we can use there as well. So we want to make sure that all infrastructure can use these waste products. To improve not only our products are in the ground, but. Reduce the potential for impacts on the Environment.
00:11:14 KIM: So, I know we're excited about this, and I can tell you're excited about this, but what about the citizens of Hawaii? How are they responding to this?
00:11:23 ED: They all think it's a really good idea, but of course the proof is in the pudding. I got to make sure I can show them a product that worked. I think I would best classify this as. Cautiously optimistic. Happy that we're moving this in this direction but waiting for the results to ensure that we're not going to. Give them a product that doesn't work.
00:11:40 BRIAN: That's exciting to hear and I could tell there was a decent amount of news coverage on this. So you had plenty of opportunities to get feedback from the public. So I think you probably do have a pretty good handle on how people feel about it at this point. And we hope that people listen to this and they're excited about it. And if you're dot out there and you're hearing this and you want to know how to get involved, how can people get in touch with you, Ed?
00:12:02 ED: They can call us definitely at (808) 587-2150. We're happy to share all the information that we have. We're happy to work with them on any of the improvements that they're making that that they're in this area and we're happy to steal any ideas that they have to bring back here. So we saw really smart and really. Progressive as well.
00:12:21 KIM: Have you had many other people reach out to you or in an industry or other DOT's reach out to? You about your the work you're doing.
00:12:29 ED: We have, you know, the directors that that asked. So we're all kind of on tech strings together. So when we start hearing about what, what initiatives the others are doing, we start texting each other and asking. So there's been a bunch that's out that outreached already. That asked for our. Staff to reach out to theirs, or at least the contact that they can reach out to. The great thing is they know that we're piloting this. So they can use the data that we have and build on that. So there's been quite a bit of momentum that's building now and we're hopeful that this can push the wave to making this. The future of how we. Do business.
00:13:01 BRIAN: Yeah. Now that we've got quite a bit of background from you on what this project is all about and where you're going and everything else we talked about, we're going to have some other conversations with people at the dot and other interested parties that were involved as part of this series. But I want to thank you so much, Ed, for your time in telling us all about it. And get us getting us off on the right foot.
00:13:24 ED: This initiative kind of ties into everything we do and then you can you talk to all the DOTs about. It as well. Everyone knows that because transportation touches everything and everything touches transportation. And our initiatives are just not about roads and bridges, it's about that connection that we provide to everybody. That connection to the data that's necessary to push this own program in your own state definitely. But here in Hawaii, it's also about connection to a new industry, potentially a new job market for our citizens in this area. And hopefully in advancement in thought process. So we can create more of these areas cause frankly we're great our state. Is a great little Petri dish that we can test things in, and we'd love to be able to pilot these new technologies, especially in green transportation and cleaner environments, to push towards other states as well.
00:14:12 KIM: I'm excited to see that you guys are on the cutting edge of this and again, you said you took things from LA County and building on that. And so I'm excited to see where this. Who builds on your research here and your test pilot here and where this goes in the future? It's exciting stuff.
00:14:29 ED: Oh, thank you so much.
00:14:31 BRIAN: Thanks for your time today.
00:14:32 ED: Thank you. Thank you.
00:14:35 KIM: And that was part one of our four-part series on paving with recycled Plastic Hawaii's pilot project.
00:14:42 BRIAN: Yeah, next week we've got Mel Chung and Christy Grilho, also from the Hawaii DOT, to go a little deeper into the testing involved on this project.
00:14:52 KIM: Stay tuned because we have three more episodes on this exciting and innovative project happening in Hawaii.
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