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Train sleepers made out of recycling plastic coming to the UK

June 15, 2009 at 3:43 pm

The word ‘sleeper’ is often quite apt when it comes to the parts of the train tracks in the UK made out of wood. Although the wood is very durable and long-lasting, and has even become something of a fashion accessory for people’s gardens, there is something quite ancient about these timber boards that the rails sit on. It feels they need a burst of modernity and that burst has finally come in the form of recycled plastics.

The company in charge of the UK’s rail lines, Network Rail, has come up with a forward-thinking idea with the help of a Halifax plastics recycling plant called i-plas. The idea is to replace the thousands of sleepers, particularly in rural areas, with new recycled plastic ones. Over twenty tonnes of waste plastics will be saved from landfills, and other plants, and melted down into the shape of a sleeper. There will be a detailed assessment of the durability of the new products following this and Network Rail hope that if they are successful, then they will be installed throughout the whole of the UK.

Not only is this good for plastics but it’s good for timber. Although all of the current new timber sleepers come from managed forests, many of them have to travel quite some distances to arrive at their final destination. It’s a much greener solution all round then for Network Rail. The only problem is, how disruptive will installation of the new sleepers be, on top of the already embarrassing delays with Network Rail?

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