Connecting Industries Worldwide

Highways England accelerates switch to lower carbon asphalts

Highways England is accelerating the use of warm mix asphalts as standard across its supply chain as part of a drive toward net zero carbon emissions.

The company has been using the material since 2015 and a collaborative programme with the supply chain and extensive research now means it can be used freely across the Strategic Road Network.

Previously requiring an application for a departure from standard, Highways England is now asking all those involved in the construction and/or maintenance of the strategic road network, particularly designers and main contractors, to use warm mix asphalts (WMAs) as it moves towards net zero.

WMA technologies can offer enhanced efficiencies and lower production carbon, with CO2 savings of up to 15% when compared to conventional hot mix asphalts.

While typical asphalts are produced at up to 190°C, the simple principle behind WMA technologies is to manufacture asphalt at reduced temperatures but with additional additives, thereby using less energy and delivering meaningful carbon savings, without compromising performance.

Produced at temperatures up to 40°C lower than traditional asphalt, if all production in the UK switched to WMAs, it would save around 61,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent of cutting around 300 million miles of car journeys.

It would also help save up to £70 million a year through an increased in shift outputs and can be recycled back into new asphalts, preventing waste. WMAs can be laid using existing equipment and brings other benefits, including carbon reduction, increased productivity, improved health and safety, and improved durability.

Due to being laid at lower temperatures and the increased amount that can be laid in a single shift, it also means less construction joints in the road requiring less maintenance in the future. This again increases the long-term benefits of the technology, life-time cost and need to undertake further maintenance.

Produced at 40°C lower than traditional asphalt, switching all UK production to the material would save 61,000 tonnes of CO2e a year, the equivalent of cutting around 300 million miles of car journeys.

Malcolm Dare, Executive Director of Commercial and Procurement at Highways England, said: “This is a big step forward for Highways England that allows us to not only achieve huge efficiency savings but also reduce carbon as we strive for net zero.

“Carbon reduction, along with ensuring our roads provide smooth, safe, and efficient journeys for motorists, are key and something we are constantly striving to improve for generations to come.

“That’s why we are altering our way of working to encourage and enable the use of warm mix asphalts as standard across the supply chain, which has efficiency, sustainability, and health and safety benefits whilst not compromising performance.”