The Bay Area Rapid Transit system in Oakland, California is developing a greener way to get their trains from point A to point B, but it doesn’t have anything to do with powering the trains themselves. Instead, they are replacing old wooden railroad ties with new ones crafted from all recycled materials. Old grocery bags, milk cartons, and car tires make up about 400 of the area’s 38,000 railroad ties, and the Transit system plans to replace another 14,000 over the next 10 years. Although the plastic ties are meant to last for 60 years, compared to the wooden tie’s lifespan of 15-40 years, there is a new technology threatening the movement to switch to plastic. Keep reading to find out what.
With scientists working desperately to find a chemical compound to make plastic biodegradable, the amount of recyclable materials available for crafting railroad tires will decrease dramatically. If the researchers succeed, plastic materials used for general consumption will all biodegrade in a landfill in roughly four months – good for the environment, bad for the railroad tie manufacturer.
At least in the meantime there will be a place for all of our old milk cartons to go to.