Network to recycle rubbish into railway sleepers

28 July 2013

Network Rail to recycle rubbish into railway sleepers. Material from old car bumpers and plastic bottles will replace timber railway sleepers in trial on slower lines. Britain's railways are turning to recycled plastic in a trial of environmentally friendly railway sleepers. Network Rail is to fit up to 250 of the green railway sleepers, made from old car bumpers and plastic bottles, on the network this summer. The material will replace traditional timber railway sleepers, which are still common on slower lines.

Jerry England, director of engineering at Network Rail said: "This is an important scheme for Network Rail, helping recycling while putting waste to good use. Rail has the enviable position of being the most environmentally friendly and sustainable form of transport, and it is new thinking like this that will help us to improve our record further."

The railway sleepers which use around 60 kilograms of recycled plastic are supplied by i-plas, a plastic waste recycling company, based in Halifax. Howard Waghorn, managing director, said they saved raw materials and would last for more than 30 years. "This is plastic that would otherwise go to landfill." Most of the plastic comes from industrial waste. Similar recycled railway sleepers are already common on railways in Holland and the US.

Network Rail fits some 185,000 timber railway sleepers each year, around 13% of the total. The rest are concrete and steel, which are more expensive and less versatile. The recycled railway sleepers are currently being tested. "We need to know how they behave and react to events such as fire," a spokesman said.