EWA BEACH, Hawaii (KHON2) — Ewa residents should get ready to drive on plastic.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation began paving Fort Weaver Road on Tuesday, Oct. 11 with a mix of recycled material and asphalt.

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It is a part of a 2-year pilot project and the road could easily be mistaken for regular asphalt.

“It looks like asphalt, smells like asphalt, compacts like asphalt, works like asphalt, and the test here is gonna tell us whether it performs like asphalt over time,” said Jerrod Schreck, Grace Pacific president.

A total of 1,950 tons — or the equivalent of 195,000 plastic bottles — will go into the ground on Fort Weaver Road between Kilaha Street and Cormorant Avenue. Officials said up to 40% of the final mix is made up of recycled material.

“We’re using plastics in our pavements and it’s not a new technology, but it’s new to Hawaii,” said Ed Sniffen, HDOT Highways deputy director.

The University of Hawaii will test the structural aspects of the road after the pilot and Hawaii Pacific University will make sure that nothing leaches into the environment.

“It’s postindustrial plastic that is shredded and pelletized into small, little black pellets,” said Dr. Jennifer Lynch, HPU Center for Marine Debris Research co-director. “What’s really important is that this trial road is an excellent opportunity for us to address this microplastic or pollution leaching here in the Hawaiian environment.”

The plastic for the Fort Weaver Road pilot comes from the mainland, but officials said they will look into expanding into other areas with locally-sourced recyclables if the project goes well.

“If this works out for us, we’re gonna have our own plant. We’re gonna be able to process our own here, it’s not only good for the plant, but we’re gonna have people who have jobs. All of this that you see here right now is our working men and women having jobs. And that’s why we wanna make sure, not only securing our environment to be safe for everyone, but for get securing jobs for our men and women that we can continue to feed our families and take care of us.”

Sen. Kurt Fevella, (R) Ewa Beach

HPU said manufacturer testing did not show an increase in microplastics from the recycled asphalt compared to ordinary asphalt. The project could even be scaled up to remove plastic from the ocean if Fort Weaver Road has the same results.

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“Or local post-consumer waste could also be recycled into the roads to increase and enhance the performance of the roads,” Dr. Lynch said, “while also doing a win-win for the ecology and the economy here in Hawaii.”