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Evaluating the Partial Replacement of Bitumen with Recycled Plastic for Road Construction Purposes




EC: Edgerton Center

Faculty Supervisor:

Kendra Leith

Faculty email:


Apply by:



Kendra Leith (kleith@mit.edu)

Project Description

We are looking for a student to help us in the development of recycled plastics for road construction purposes. Currently, SisuTerra has tested the optimum percentage of PET and LDPE plastics needed to enhance asphalt in road construction. In order for us to create value and generate impact in the circular economy, we would like to investigate the effects of incorporating a blended mixture of commonly recycled plastic materials (PET, HDPE & LDPE) on the mechanical properties of dry mixed asphalt. The blended recycled plastic materials are meant to serve as binder replacements for asphalt surface courses and/or base courses. For the study, the mechanical properties of importance are deformation resistance, stiffness modulus, stiffness modulus and thermal degradation studies. Lastly, for the recycling to be viable, the waste materials should offer improved performance at a similar cost to what is already available in the Zimbabwean market OR achieve comparable performance at a reduced cost. The research is focused on investigating: ● Conduct a literature review on the effects of a mixture of common plastic waste materials (PET, HDPE & LDPE) on the mechanical properties of asphalt ● Basing on the literature review, make a recommendation on: 1. The optimum concentration needed of these plastics for asphalt roads 2. The best combination of plastics for different types of road layers - e.g. for surface courses and for base courses. The expected hours per week are 15-25 hours. Please note that this UROP is part of a three-year program, New Entrepreneurs Xchange for Transformation, which was co-created by MIT D-Lab and Ashesi University in Ghana. It includes an incubator for social ventures. SisuTerra is one of the enterprises in the incubator.


A person passionate about the environment, cleaner cities and improved infrastructure. The student should have taken a course in Mechanics of Material or any other related course.