Coatings / Formulators / Manufacturers / Green Products/Applications / Raw Materials and Chemicals

Coatings Innovation: New Environmental Road Markings Improve Safety

The road markings incorporate tiny glass beads that reflect the light from headlights in dark or wet conditions.

Road markings ensure traffic safety, but there are differences among them, both in terms of quality and eco-friendliness. Evonik Industries has conducted an independent lifecycle assessment (LCA) and found that DEGAROUTE-based road markings protect not only road users but also the climate.

The road markings shine like gems: tiny glass beads embedded in the road marking material reflect the light from headlights in dark or wet conditions. These glass beads make the markings visible at night or in fog and rain, thus increasing safety. Thanks to their structure, the lines and surfaces are extremely durable as well.

Various systems can be used to apply three kinds of structured, three-dimensional markings to roads. One of these is cold-plastic marking based on DEGAROUTE reaction resin. DEGAROUTE has proven itself in this application for over 50 years. Lately, however, it is not just safety but the environmental aspect that is playing a more important role. Increasing traffic volumes call for more and more markings—but not at the expense of the environment.

Environmental Impact Study

As part of the LCA, Evonik compared its DEGAROUTE-based road markings with three other common road marking systems: hot-spray plastic, solvent-based paint and water-based paint. In this case, Evonik studied a two-lane, 1-km section of road equipped with a middle stripe and two edge stripes. The assessment period was 10 years; after this time, roads normally need to be resurfaced.

The LCA study found that cold-spray plastic with DEGAROUTE was superior to the other technologies. It obtained the best results, particularly due to its longevity. The study showed that, more than anything, the service life of a marking is key to its environmental impact. And, in this respect, the solvent- and water-based systems were second-best. Over the period of the study, the solvent-based paint had to be reapplied 10 times to obtain the marking, while DEGAROUTE-based cold-spray plastic had to be reapplied only four times.

Hot-spray plastic did similarly well in terms of longevity, but it consumed more material. This high durability is primarily a result of the glass beads contained in the marking material. According to the LCA study, durability is also the deciding factor for CO2 emissions and, therefore, the global warming potential of the individual systems. Hot-spray plastic has a 50% higher warming potential than DEGAROUTE-based cold-spray plastic with glass beads, and paint systems are roughly 80% higher. In comparison, the application step accounts for only a small percentage of the global warming potential—with the exception of hot-spray plastic, which has to be applied in a melted state at high temperatures and requires the use of gas burners. Using DEGAROUTE in combination with glass beads ensures a long useful life and, therefore, a good LCA.

“DEGAROUTE-based cold-plastic markings display superior quality and resistance,” says Harald Guder, Ph.D., managing director of Limburger Lackfabrik GmbH, Germany’s leading manufacturer of road marking materials, and a road marking specialist. “Particularly when it comes to heavily traveled sections of roadway, such as intersections and main roads, the useful life of cold plastic is impressive.”

In addition, DEGAROUTE cold plastic can cure very quickly and can thus be applied in free-flow traffic. “This prevents traffic jams and eliminates the need for closing off sections of road to create detours,” says Guder. “And because cold-plastic markings have to be re-applied less often than other systems, less intervention in traffic is necessary.”

All this adds up to reduced CO2 emissions. So while the more durable cold- and hot-spray plastic systems are proving themselves to be resource-efficient solutions wherever traffic is high, paint systems are a good alternative for areas with less traffic.

The LCA study was conducted in accordance with ISO 14040 and critically reviewed by independent experts from industry, science and research: the University of Stuttgart, the LCA specialist PE International, a recognized marking expert, and a worldwide leading provider of road markings. In early 2012, the system was certified to ISO 14044.

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