HARMFUL tar from Oxfordshire’s roads is being recycled, remixed and relaid to save cash and the environment.
The use of the carcinogenic material was banned in the 1980s, but tonnes of it still lies on the surfaces of the county’s roads.
The county council isn’t allowed to put tar into landfill, but it is recycling it and putting it down under new layers of other material as it resurfaces the road network.
And it has saved £217,000 since re-using materials instead of bringing in new resources at the beginning of the year.
The council’s commercial director Mark Kemp said: “While all new roads are manufactured using bitumen, up until the mid-1980s many of our roads used tar in their construction.
“Tar is now recognised as carcinogenic and so construction methods have to change to remove any risks when these materials are found during road maintenance. Two techniques are available and both have been trialled in Oxfordshire as part of this year’s programme.”
Bitumen is a substance similar to tar but does not possess carcinogenic qualities.
He added the “in-situ technique” recycled the material within the site while the so-called “ex-situ technique” saw material containing tar removed from site, taken to a depot for recycling and then relaid elsewhere.
And at a meeting of the council’s growth and infrastructure committee on Monday, councillors praised the scheme.
Conservative Kidlington councillor Michael Gibbard said: “Certainly on the face of it it does seem to be very worthwhile and encouraging.”
He raised concerns that workmen who dug up the relaid roads in years to come could be affected by the harmful material, but Mr Kemp said the use of the material was logged.
Workmen have to wear protective clothing when dealing with the materials, but people aren’t ordinarily exposed to the dangers if they simply walk on the tar.
The “in-situ technique” was recently used in the resurfacing of Yarnell’s Hill in North Hinksey.
Referring to that scheme, Mr Kemp said: “The recycling option reduced the cost from £313,000 to £166,000, while shortening the construction period by half, to just two weeks.
“It also reduced the ‘carbon footprint’ of the work by reducing waste and the movement of heavy vehicles for the disposal and replacement of materials.”
The “ex-situ” method was recently successful in Lew, near Witney. Eight hundred tonnes of bituminous material containing tar was used in the scheme in Lower Farm Road, saving £70,000.
The council said the process wouldn’t lead to more roads being resurfaced, but would save money.