Plastic fantastic: groundbreaking bridge over Tweed water

Easter Dawyck Plastic Bridge.
Easter Dawyck Plastic Bridge.

THE LONGEST bridge made of recycled plastic in the world was put up in Peebleshire last month.

The 90ft crossing over the River Tweed on the Dawyck estate near Stobo is made of more than 50 tonnes of old plastic bottles and car bumpers – and is the first of its kind in the UK.

Easter Dawyck Plastic Bridge. Robert Balfour on the new bridge

Easter Dawyck Plastic Bridge. Robert Balfour on the new bridge

Dawyck Estates’s Robert Balfour said: “I hope we’ve done something that is groundbreaking. There are only four other bridges like it and they are in the US.

“I feel incredibly proud of a completely innovative way of recycling an unwanted material and putting up something I hope will last for 100 years with hardly any maintenance.”

The bridge at Easter Dawyck Farm is strong enough to take heavy goods vehicles and is part of the John Buchan Way.

Already, representatives from London Underground and UK construction company Carillion have been to see it. And forest companies are interested in the construction which won’t rust and does not need painting.

The bridge deck itself was put up in just four days by soldiers from the Royal Engineers under the supervision of Peebles contractors Glendinning Groundworks.

And the crossing was closed for just two weeks as the old bridge, dating back to 1880, was taken down and the new one installed.

The project came about when Mr Balfour, searching for the best way to replace the bridge, which was last rebuilt in 1929 by his grandfather, sought the advice of his friend William Mainwaring, founder of Vertech, a new Welsh company making construction products from waste plastic.

“He said he’d heard of a material in the States that might work, “ said Mr Balfour, managing director of the 3,000-acre estate

And that led to the involvement of Professor Tom Nosker of Rutgers University, which developed the technology to convert waste plastic into construction material; Cardiff University’s engineering school, bridge designers; and the 10 Field Squadron (Air Support) Royal Engineers – and a meeting on site last year to see if it was feasible to build a plastic bridge there.

The bridge is on a Site of Special Scientific Interest which covers the River Tweed. And it also features the longest plastic span – over nine metres – of any bridge in the world.

“Aesthetically it looks nice, “ said Mr Balfour: “I’m hoping it will encourage people to do more recycling.”

The award-winning Professor Nosker said: “I have appreciated the opportunity to work on this groundbreaking project very much and appreciate the trust and confidence that has been extended by all involved to attempt this feat, which is probably considered by most as crazy.

“This bridge is the most beautiful I have worked on and it went up in less than four days, which has to be some kind of record for a 90ft road bridge!”

Vertech’s Mr Mainwaring said: ”We shouldn’t be sending so much of the UK’s waste plastic to landfill, nor should we be shipping it to China.

“With this unique technology we can now recycle it ourselves to produce increasingly sought-after high quality and sustainable construction materials for the European market.”