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4 September, 2023
Innovation through green-tinted spectacles

Sustainability is one of Globalvia’s key drivers. It is also one of the most important drivers in the modern world. Thinking of innovation today without factoring in this component means not understanding the reality we live in.

Every day we see hundreds of new stories about increasingly severe floods, fires, droughts, and hurricanes. It’s true that human beings have caused major damage to the world – but we also have the capacity to remedy it.

When in 2019 I began my journey in the Innovation Squad, the team created to promote internal innovation in Globalvia, I was on the lookout for innovative ideas. I often reached a dead end by sticking to the mistaken notion that innovation is only linked to ideas that require programming, artificial intelligence, and complex things. That is not entirely true. In fact, in my own experience, most of the ideas we have developed in Ruta 27 are closely linked to environmental protection.

Under this approah, we began by switching from conventional lighting to LED, but with a twist: we created a controller with a pilot light which was not only capable of regulating the intensity of the lighting but was also equipped to provide WiFi or Bluetooth push messaging through the IoT.

In another project, we became aware of the great volume of non-recyclable plastic waste (known as ‘tragic plastics’) collected from the roadside on Ruta 27. So the idea arose of incorporating this waste into the hot asphalt mix used for road maintenance. This idea was implemented and transformed in our star project for recovering plastic waste and converting it into raw material for asphalt, in an extremely productive alliance with the companies Constructora Pedregal and the Centre for Regenerative Design and Collaboration (CRDC). CRDC is now becoming a global player, opening new plants around the world that can turn tragic plastics into aggregate for construction. Working with them, we have laid 300 linear metres of this asphalt mix on Ruta 27 with very positive results, making it the first national highway in Costa Rica to use an asphalt mix composed of recycled plastic.

Ruta 27_Proyecto revaloriación plásticos

During the works in our Ruta 27 concession to settle the asphalt mixture made of recicled plastic material.

Following this interesting project, we took another step forward in recycling plastic waste and giving it a new life by using it to construct barriers for toll roads and posts for motorway signage.

But that’s not all. We continue to explore new possibilities, such as the potential uses we can give to the rubber from tyres dumped on the highway.

At Ruta 27 our commitment and strong focus on sustainability is heightened because we belong to a country like Costa Rica, with many protected areas, where from the 1970s to the present day we have managed to recover 26% of the forest areas lost to deforestation. Costa Rica is known around the world for its natural riches, which inspire us to see the world through green-tinted spectacles.

However, not only Globalvia has this focus. You only have to look at the world around us to see that we are making great strides in this area: the boom in electric vehicles, clean energies, responsible agriculture, the circular economy, green economies, the proliferation of constructions using Lean or LEED methodologies, and initiatives of all kinds, from the biggest projects to the smallest of gestures. I remember that once in Chile I had the opportunity to try some food which had been rejected for sale in supermarkets because it had some faults that in no way affected the food’s quality. Examples like these show us that there are many more thinking people who are eager to recover and preserve the paradise that was bequeathed to us.

The world is hungry for change, for a different direction; we have to stop the clock counting down to the Apocalypse, which is increasingly close to midnight, the point of no return.

I am m proud of Globalvia, which is on the side of the good, where we work to develop Advanced Air Mobility that will offer clean mobility, where the highway of the future, NeoRoads, makes available to us all a system that will optimise mobility and thus reduce our carbon footprint. A company that in 2022 has been named leader for the fourth year in a row in the global sustainability index GRESB, in the category of Motorways.

I am convinced that innovation and sustainability are a pair that is here to stay; and that the companies that try to have one without the other are probably doomed to disappear. Over time, clients have evolved in line with what the world needs, and what it needs the most is to heal. In fact, it needs development to be both sustainable and regenerative: we do not limit ourselves to leaving things as they were but aspire to transform them into something much better.

Let’s remember to use these green-tinted spectacles when we are brainstorming or when we are travelling along our concessions or businesses. There are probably many green innovations waiting to be discovered.

Kenneth Quesada – Head of the Technical Office of Ruta 27