ROADS UK: Reimagining the Opportunities of Asphalt Development for Sustainability in the United Kingdom

The production of aggregates and asphalt has significant strategic importance for the manufacturing sector. With an estimated value of around €16 trillion, Europe’s road network is its most valuable asset and much of the inherent value of Britain's road network is in the billions of tonnes of asphalt that make up the surface of its highways. Asphalt is used as the surfacing material for over 95% of all UK roads as well as for footpaths, playgrounds, cycle ways and car parks and approximately 20 million tonnes of asphalt produced each year in the UK. At the end of a road’s lifespan, asphalt can be recycled to make new roads and is done so by some companies (asphalt itself is recyclable – in the US it’s the most recycled product there is - more asphalt gets recycled than glass, paper, steel or anything else).

The pace of product development in asphalt is rapid and the UK industry is driving towards the production and use of more sustainable asphalts through the increased use of recycled materials and reducing energy consumption by lowering mix temperatures. With a design life of around 40 years, being at the forefront of the sustainable production of this material is key, as the effects of the product will be felt for a long time.

The project will identify challenges of the industry (asphalt/bitumen production) and the impact of this production on the environment and society; identify what sets best practice firms apart as a business (e.g. vertical integration, innovative materials, technological advancement); apply the findings to the wider industry to determine applicability and identify barriers and solutions to industrial symbiosis in this construction sector.

Dr Rosie Cole
(Principal Investigator)
Surrey Business School 
University of Surrey 

 Dr Rosie Cole from Surrey Business School is an Associate Professor in Sustainable Supply Chain Management. Her current research focuses on circularity and reverse exchange in the manufacturing sector with projects in medical devices, ready-made garments and textiles, food production and now the asphalt industry. She is particularly interested in digital technology capabilities to enhance closed loop supply chains, including the connectivity and visibility of operations, smart manufacturing, digital ledger technology and autonomous logistics. The provenance of goods and reverse logistics are at the forefront of her work.

Rosie works on the improvement of both social and environmental sustainability, to include the welfare of workers throughout the supply chain and impacts on the planet from the production and consumption of our goods, as well as the packaging dilemmas. Her work is diverse and deals with real and important problems in modern day supply chains.

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