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Sat 20 Jan 2007 12:00 AM

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Plastic could offset bitumen hikes

The use of a plastic-bitumen mix could become more widespread across the Middle East as prices continue to spike

Plastic could be used more in road building in the Middle East to stave off the rising cost of bitumen, according to Ulrich Reifenhäuser, managing director of Germany-based manufacturer of plastic processing machinery, Reifenhäuser.

The price of bitumen jumped from US $32 (AED117) a tonne to $47 a tonne at the beginning of July last year due to the cost of oil, and has continued to go up each month since.

Reifenhäuser said that a mix of plastic and bitumen has been used on road projects in Europe, and the process is cheaper than using bitumen alone. The method also brings about the productive use of plastic waste.

"The granulate from used plastic that can't be recycled could be used in road projects," he said. "This method resists heat of up to 120°C and has been used in highly sophisticated road construction - although it is yet to be proven to be as good as the established road building technology."

Reifenhäuser added that the Middle East is at an advantage as the region already produces around 5.5% of the global share of raw materials used to make plastic products, which are sold to local and overseas markets.

"The strength is there for the Middle East to produce more - and it has already made big strides in this direction," he said.

"The region already has the structure in place to produce resins out of oil, and it now has the strength to produce plastic for its home market as well as for export."

Local investment in plastic-producing technology is also strengthening the region's position in the industry. According to estimates from
PlasticsEurope

, the basic chemical, plastic and metal industry has absorbed 60% of total investment in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, and around 90% in Bahrain.

"Arab investors continue to make great investment in high-tech machinery to produce and be the experts in high-valued products - in this respect, they have an advantage over the EU," he added.

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