Canadian startup tests plastic-infused asphalt in New York

Canadian social enterprise Last20 is testing a prototype of its plastic-infused asphalt at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’s corporate campus in Westchester County, N.Y.

Left to right, Lucas Barnes of Last20, George Poth of Regeneron and Marsha Gordon of the Business Council of Westchester.

Last20 laid 110 tons of pavement laced with low-density polyethylene (LDPE) for the base layer of a new parking lot on November 4. The applied asphalt contains about a ton of recycled LDPE from post-industrial commercial uses. A ton of LDPE is the equivalent of 181,437 plastic shopping bags, which are also LDPEs.

“Our asphalt offers a recycling solution for the plastic film commonly used as a packaging and shipping material at big box stores. This reuse of LDPEs advances Last20’s mission to reduce plastic waste and promote sustainability in the construction industry,” said Last20 co-founder Lucas Barnes.

Last20 replaces a portion of the traditional asphalt mix with LDPE, one of the hardest plastics to recycle. India has upcycled plastic waste into pavement for almost two decades, but the practice has been slow to take hold in other parts of the world with cooler climates.

The asphalt test supports Regeneron’s approach to environmental sustainability, which is focused on: energy, emissions, reducing waste and conserving water. The industry-leading biotech company is working on an extensive expansion of its Tarrytown campus that includes up to eight buildings, three parking garages and a central utility plant.

The product test is part of the Westchester Innovation Network (WIN), a program launched by the Business Council of Westchester (BCW) that aims at driving economic development, innovation, and growth. 

In order to complete the BCW/WIN Last20 pilot with Regeneron, the BCW brought in a team of BCW experts which included Advance Testing of Campbell Hall, N.Y., to ensure that the asphalt mix design meets New York’s regulations.

Thalle Industries produced the prototype asphalt at the company’s Fishkill, N.Y. asphalt plant and Montesano Brothers delivered the asphalt and did the paving. Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, provided its StartUp Lab incubator for Last20.

“We are considering developing an industrial-scale plastic feeder that can feed the LDPE into large asphalt mixers because doing it by hand is not cost effective for mass production,” said Barnes.

The BCW’s WIN program helped Last20 secure its collaboration with Regeneron and Thalle Industries, which are both BCW members.

“Our goal is to help nascent innovators throughout North America find established test partners in Westchester County, where innovators can co-create, refine product designs and ultimately establish a base of operations here,” said Dr. Marsha Gordon, BCW president and CEO.

“Special thanks to Wilfrid Laurier University and specifically Professor Laura Allan, the faculty advisor for Enactus Laurier and Executive Director of the Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship & Social Innovation.  We have been so inspired by their innovations and are pleased to spotlight one of their many successes — Last20 – today,” Gordon added.