When it comes to recycling, what will they think of next? This. Check out these unique high-tech materials made from recycled plastic bags. They are the brainchildren of big green dreamers from the art, science and business communities.

1. Diesel Fuel
Researchers at the University of Illinois have found a way to make diesel fuel and other petroleum products from used grocery bags. The energy used in the conversion process is much less that the energy recovered. You can read more about their research in the highlights from an article published in the scientific journal, Fuel Processing Technology.

Diesel fuel

Photo: FeelPic / iStock

2. Roads
Ahmed Khan, an entrepreneur in India, founded the company K.K. Plastic Waste Management in the early 1990s to mix plastic from landfills with asphalt to form a compound that can be used to build roads. Nearly 1,000 miles of roads have been built to date, and they’ve been found to wear better and last longer than the traditional roads, even better withstanding monsoons.


Photo: Auris / iStock

3. Concrete Bricks
Henry Miller, a recent graduate of the Master of Architecture program at Rensselaer Polytechnic University in Albany, New York, developed a way to granulate plastic bags and mix them with concrete to form bricks with significant environmental benefits. The material blend keeps the plastic used out of landfills and eliminates the need to add the typical mined aggregate to the concrete mix.

Concrete block brick wall

Photo: kevinjeon00 / iStock

4. Carbon Nanotube Membranes (CNTs)
Scientists at the University of Adelaide have discovered a way to turn plastic bags into high-tech CNTs, the strongest material in existence, hundreds of times stronger than steel and six times lighter. This sophisticated material is currently used to produce innovative electronics, wind turbines, sensing devices and more. It has exciting future potential for energy storage in lithium ion batteries and medical innovations.

Lithium ion batteries

Photo: MechanismDigital / iStock

5. Composite Decking
A company called Trex® led the development of composite decking as an alternative to wood lumber in the early 1990s. Trex collects sawdust from reclaimed wood and recycled plastic from a number of sources – including plastic shopping bags, newspaper sleeves, dry cleaning bags and food storage bags like Ziploc® brand bags – to create the composite material used in its products. The average 500-square-foot composite Trex deck contains 140,000 recycled plastic bags!

Composite decking

Photo: Chiyacat / iStock

Did you know clean and dry Ziploc® bags, such as sandwich and freezer bags, are recyclable? Just look for the bin next time you’re at your local participating store. Learn more at www.Ziploc.com/Sustainability.