A step along the road to decarbonisation, with the first Net Zero asphalt in Durham

Julia Barthram finds out more about a new carbon reducing road surface.

A new material which takes carbon out of the atmosphere has been used to resurface a North East road in a UK first.

ACLA is a carbon negative aggregate which permanently stores carbon. It captures and stores CO2 in the product and doesn't release it back out into the atmosphere.

As it's made, each tonne of ACLA takes 750 kg of CO2 from the atmosphere.Mixing even just 5% of it with normal asphalt, will significantly lower the carbon footprint, enabling net zero roads.

ACLA is mixed with recycled materials to make the asphalt

Dr Natasha Boulding is Chief Executive of Low Carbon Materials, the Seaham based company behind the new material: "I think people take the built environment for-granted sometimes, whether it's our houses, our offices, or even our roads"

She added: "For us, it was, can we think about the carbon footprint and the impact of these materials and actually do something about it to start decarbonising and achieving net zero."

Founded by three Durham University PhD students, LCM wants to clean up construction.

The company was shortlisted for Prince William's Earthshot prize in 2022. The prize aims to search for the most innovative solutions to the world’s greatest environmental challenges.

LCM were shortlisted for Prince William's Earthshot prize in 2022

25 million tonnes of asphalt are produced each year (Asphalt Industry Alliance, 2021). LCM says tackling the emissions of asphalt is, therefore, vital for the UK road network to decarbonise in line with the country’s legally binding target of achieving net zero by 2050.In this trial ACLA has been mixed with recycled plastics, rubber and asphalt.

The environmentally friendly road has been laid by Durham based construction company MGL Group.

The joint chief executive said: "It looks and lays exactly like a conventional asphalt. People driving on this will not notice a difference at all, the asphalt that we are laying today will be the same longevity as a normal asphalt.

"It is so important that we continue to look at ways to be as green as possible and help to reduce emissions from new road construction and maintenance."

David Elliott, MGL Group, Alan Patrickson, Durham County Council, Dr Natasha Boulding, Low Carbon Materials

It's not the first time the local company has trialled innovative green solutions. In 2018, alongside Durham County Council, the construction firm used an asphalt which contained plastics that would have otherwise ended up in landfill.

The material has been designed, developed and is being trialled in County Durham in a partnership between Low Carbon Materials, MGL Group and Durham County Council.

"We've got a road going down here that takes us huge steps towards our Net Zero targets." explained Alan Patrickson, Durham County Council’s corporate director for neighbourhoods and climate change.

"As a council we maintain 4000 kilometres of road across the county and doing anything that we can through construction to reduce our carbon footprint is good. This is a real pioneering project between Durham County council and two great North East innovative companies.

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