Characterization of Recycled Polymer Materials in Construction Piles Application for Civil Works

Characterization of Recycled Polymer Materials in Construction Piles Application for Civil Works

Yee Yong Lee, Nicholas Hoo Tien Kuan, Chee Khoon Ng, Sim Nee Ting

Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, 94300 Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia

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With the many applications of polymers (more commonly known as plastic) in the domestic, business and industrial sectors, the world production of plastics including Sarawak, Malaysia has reached a unprecedented highs in terms of volumes and numbers in recent years. Due to its non-biodegrable nature and long lifespan, the world now need to deal with the resulting increased volumes of plastics waste and the disposal of such waste has proven to be energy and resources consuming. This study advocates polymer recycling for Sarawak in order to resolve plastic waste disposal and the related issues and their associated negative impacts. It is proposed that plastics waste has potential to be recycled and used for construction works application such as piles production for foundations with light loadings, especially those in civil works. The piles proposed herewith is short piles to replace bakau (mangrove) pile. Due to the rapid deforestation of mangrove, harvesting of mangrove bakau is no longer sustainable and feasible in terms of environment and economy. This study will include researching on the best recycled polymers combination/s that emulates (or even better improves) bakau piles’ properties, designing the optimised size and shape of the piles and proposing a value engineered product that is beneficial in terms of costs and functionality. It is envisaged that recycled polymers piles not only resolve environmental problems from polymer wastes and mangrove deforestation, it paves a direction for two whole new industries in Sarawak, namely recycling and short piles manufacturing.

Sarawak in general has yet to capitalize on the many domestic and industrial uses of recycled polymers (plastic). The study suggests recycling polymers in order to resolve polymer waste disposal and management issues in the Sarawak State while creating a new economic sector for the State. The shift in our waste management approach to include polymer waste management is a wholesome approach that will provide many benefits to the State’s economy, environment, taxpayers and communities as a whole. Recycling polymers blends in with the State’s vision of a green and clean Sarawak.

The study closes the loop of recycling polymers by putting forward an application of the recycled polymer herewith in pile construction for civil works. Recycled polymer piles will seek to replace the traditional bakau piles used in road constructions, drainage construction, light water related structures and sewerage manhole works. Civil works represents big components of state construction activities, which has emphasized greatly on infrastructures construction (eg. The Pan-Borneo Highway). As population grow, land development will continue to enlarge and inevitably, Sarawak will need to resolve the engineering issues related to construction on very soft soil where the soft clay and very-soft clay have properties which tend to be highly compressible, low shear strength, low permeability, and have low bearing capacity. Traditionally, bakau piles have been used where there are constraints related to using shallow foundations to overcome land subsidence.

As a replacement to bakau piles, the proposed recycled polymer piles not only resolve engineering issues related to construction and environmental issues related to polymer waste disposal and mangrove deforestation, it will improve the current market for pile selection. There are basically no recycled polymer piles in the construction market. The application of recycled polymer piles has very high potential and success rate as the compressive strength of the polymer has been found to be higher than bakau pile (Curbell, 2019; Yunus, 2018). Recycled polymer piles may well prove to be the engineering solution to waste disposal, environment and construction challenges.