In Summer 2020, Wokingham Borough Council installed plastic kerbing as part of a new cycle path on London Road in Wokingham. Plastic kerbs are lightweight kerbstones made using 88% recycled materials and are aesthetically similar to concrete kerbstones, however are designed not to chip or crack.
The council have recently undertaken a review on the efficiency of the plastic kerbs, looking at the cost, longevity and environmental benefits, and as a result of the positive outcomes, will be using plastic kerbs more frequently.
75% faster to install
The plastic kerbstones weigh 3-6kg each, compared with the concrete equivalent of 40-70kg. Concrete kerbs require lifting equipment and at least two workers to handle the kerbs, whereas plastic kerb installation is less costly as there is no need for lifting equipment and the installation requires fewer workers and less time.
Trials indicate that lay rates are up to four times faster than concrete kerbs. The cost of the buying the plastic kerbing and having it delivered was slightly higher than for concrete kerbing, however this was more than offset by the savings made by the installation process.
Enough carbon saved to power 35 houses for a year
The London Road trial installed a 1.3km stretch of plastic kerbing. This length of kerb allowed a carbon saving of 40,555kg compared with installing traditional concrete kerbs. This included carbon savings through the supply chain as well as the manufacturing and transport related carbon and the raw materials.
In addition, the difference in weight between plastic and concrete kerbs means that significantly fewer vehicles are required to transport the kerbing from the manufacturer to the site. In this trial the total weight of plastic kerbing was 7,522kg. The weight of the equivalent number of concrete kerbs would be 93,695kg.
Health and safety
Plastic kerbing can improve the health and safety of workers. When cut, concrete kerbs produce dust which is harmful when breathed in and can cause respiratory problems and be a contributory factor to lung cancer. Power tools that are used to cut concrete kerbing are not needed, which reduces risk of injury.
Operating machinery to lift, cut and move concrete kerbing generates noise, which may affect the wellbeing of workers and the surrounding community, as well as causing long term hearing problems.
Musculoskeletal disorders may develop after long-term moving and lifting of heavy units because of excessive stress and strain on the body, poor posture, and the repetitive nature of the work. The total weight of the plastic kerbs used in the trial was 7,522kg, the equivalent number of concrete kerbs would be 93,695kg.
Whilst the kerbs have not been in place long enough to assess long term durability, other areas have reported that they last as long as concrete kerbs. We have seen from those that have suffered damage so far from vehicle impact that the damage is similar to what we would expect from a concrete kerb
Councillor Pauline Jorgenson, executive member for highways and transport, said: “I am really pleased to see the positive outcomes of the plastic kerb trial, and the positive impact it can have on cost, environment and the health and safety impact on the workers.”
Councillor Gregor Murray, executive member for residents, communications and emissions, added “I am hugely encouraged by the carbon savings that have been made just by this small pilot project. It’s easy to forget how big an impact an everyday occurrence like changing the way we replace a kerb can have on our carbon emissions. This project proves that we should be thinking about our carbon savings in every piece of work we do.”
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