Recycled railway sleepers - up close

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All aboard! Riding the recycled rails

Environment > All aboard! Riding the recycled rails

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Railway sleepers made of recycled bottles, food packaging and unwanted plastics have been fitted on a mainline railway in Wiltshire – a UK first.

01 July 2021, 4:35 PM

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Rail is already one of the greenest ways to travel and Wiltshire are right on track (geddit?) to take this to the next level, with Network Rail saying the use of these new materials is expected to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by around 40%. 

The new railway sleepers are designed to be used for at least 50 years, and are made using locally sourced plastic waste that would otherwise end up in landfill. They don’t split, rot or degrade as they’re resistant to water, oil, chemicals and fungi, so come train or shine (sorry) these sleepers will stay sturdy and strong.

When they do eventually come to the end of their life, they can simply be repurposed or recycled, perhaps even into future sleepers!

Sleepers are critical to the safety of train travel, and although wooden sleepers have been the favourites of the past – they’re not a sustainable solution. They also require a lot of maintenance, which is both costly and can be risky to the staff working on-site. Alternatives like steel and concrete sleepers exist, but although they work perfectly for heavy load routes – they’re a little too heavy for use on tracks that run over bridges and viaducts.

The track is live and in use now, so if you’re travelling across the Sherrington Viaduct, between Salisbury and Warminster, you’ll be passing over this rail-ly cool innovation.

So, what’s next for green transport? Keep an eye on what’s coming down the track!

Next article: Vanilla plastic… the latest scoop!

Warning: may blow your mind!

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