Would You Feel Safe Driving Across a Recycled Plastic Bridge?

Fort Bragg plastic bridge

Bridge safety has been a hot topic lately, mainly because of the recent Bay Bridge nightmare that saw a cracked load-bearing beam come crashing down onto rush-hour traffic. But amidst all the news of unstable steel beams, the U.S. Army has announced that it is constructing two bridges out of recycled plastic. And apparently, the bridges are strong enough to carry tanks.

The bridges, scheduled to be built as part of a $957,000 contract with Axion International Holdings, will replace old wooden bridges at Fort Eustis in Virginia. Both structures’ railroad cross-ties will be made completely out of consumer and industrial plastic waste, and the 40- and 80-foot bridges will have a high-load rating of 130 tons.

Believe it or not, the Fort Eustis bridges aren’t the first to be built out of recycled plastic. The Army has two Axion bridges at Fort Bragg and Fort Leonard Wood, and a 56-foot bridge in New Jersey’s Wharton State Forest also contains recycled plastic components from the company.

Axion’s recycled plastic bridge business isn’t likely to slow down any time soon. The company claims that a bridge made from recycled plastic is 40% lighter and 25% to 30% cheaper than traditional bridges. Axion’s bridges are also less energy-intensive than wood or steel models, and they don’t need to be painted.

But can they withstand earthquakes? If they can, who knows–maybe one day the ailing Bay Bridge will be replaced with an all-plastic model.