Paving roads with trashThree years ago, Gina Gallant was driving with her family in Cash Creek, British Columbia – known locally as “Trash Creek” because of an overflowing landfill site nearby. Suddenly, inspiration struck: Why not use garbage to pave roads?So the 13-year-old from Prince George, British Columbia, who has been inventing since first grade, took on the challenge.Gina, now 15, already had some knowledge of road-building, thanks to a job at the asphalt division of Husky Oil. But she still needed to do a lot of research.Glass and rubber waste, Gina found, had already been tried in roads in the US. The materials hadn’t worked well. So she turned to plastic – which takes up a whopping one-third of all landfill space around the world. (Just think of all the milk jugs, laundry-detergent containers, and water bottles that can pile up over time.)”I thought that since both plastic and asphalt are petroleum-based, they might be compatible,” Gina says.Bingo.Gina’s new paving material, dubbed PAR for PolyAggreRoad, mixes ground-up plastic bottles with stone material and liquid asphalt. To take the product out of the lab and onto the streets, she tracked down companies willing to grind the plastic to her specifications and mix up enough of the compound to pave an actual road.”At first, some of [the companies] didn’t take me seriously because they thought, you know, a 13-year-old can’t do something like this,” Gina says. “But they finally realized I knew what I was talking about.”Finally, last October, the mayor allowed her to test PAR on a 160-foot strip of a local road. Now she’s just waiting to see how her road holds up through freezes and thaws, and abuse from cars. Engineers already suspect that PAR will be able to withstand more movement without cracking than regular roads, Gina says.”My ultimate goal is for a company to pick up my product,” she says, “and to see it go all the way around the world to reduce garbage in landfill sites.”Her advice to others? “Believe in yourself and follow your heart, because if you can think of these ideas, you can do them.”
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