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Railways trial recycled plastic sleepers

A trial to use recycled plastic sleepers on UK rail networks could lead the way for a national roll out as Network Rail prepares to replace timber sleepers. The trial, due to start this summer, will use recycled plastic versions made from remoulded granulated plastics on rural lines for 18 to 24 months.

Network Rail director of engineering Jerry England said: This is an important scheme for Network Rail, helping recycling while putting waste to good use. Rail has the enviable position of being the most environmentally friendly and sustainable form of transport, and it is new thinking like this that will help us to improve our record further.

Each year Network Rail replaces about 185,000 timber sleepers, so using locally sourced recycled versions could help to reduce costs when compared to importing hardwood beams.

i-plas managing director Howard Waghorn said his company was developing and testing the sleepers for Network Rail. What follows on from that [in terms of a wider supply contract] depends on the trial outcomes, he said.

He also said recycled construction products are an area that is taking off in civil engineering and construction projects, adding i-plas plans to create 120 jobs over the next five years.

There is a lot of development in using recycled materials and the potential in the construction industry is huge, said Waghorn.

He praised Network Rail for embracing recycled products and added this was generally not the case in the construction industry.

All the UK industry needs to do is look at the US model for where its going to grow.

i-plas was in the news earlier this year when it announced its recycled products, which are an alterntive to concrete, had boosted sales three-fold in 2008. The company also forecast further growth for 2009.

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