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DS Smith Plastics takes a Major Leap in Sustainable Rainwater Buffering System

[Bilzen, Belgium, 9 January 2018] Global warming has made Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) ever more important. In this framework, DS Smith Plastics has launched Beaulex®, a patented sustainable solution to create rainwater buffers under hardened surfaces.

DS Smith Plastics takes a Major Leap in Sustainable Rainwater Buffering System

We now know for a fact that global warming is affecting our climate. Luckily, so far this has not (yet) resulted in extreme weather conditions in our region. However, all figures indicate that rain showers, are becoming shorter but more intense. This means there is heavier rainfall in a shorter timeframe. Combined with an increase in construction this highlights the rising importance of Sustainable Drainage Systems. As a result, the legislation and regulations on the matter are becoming stricter. In response, DS Smith Plastics is launching Beaulex®, an efficient and sustainable solution to create rainwater buffers under hardened surfaces.

Architects and contractors have long searched for solutions to efficiently drain rainwater that does not easily seep into hardened surfaces. The principle designers use is straightforward. Under the hardened surface there must be enough buffer space to temporarily store the water that cannot immediately seep into the ground, allowing it to slowly be absorbed by the soil. That calls for a hollow space under or near the hardened surface. In practice, however, the only option is usually to create this buffer under the surface.

Existing systems

To date, two solutions have generally been used. Often engineers choose to create an underground construction using complex plastic building elements. Several manufacturers offer these products, but they are quite expensive and the installation and maintenance require extensive expertise. The soil surface needs to be even and it is often impossible to use the entire surface of the construction pit.

In some countries engineers choose to dump ground car tyres under the surface, as this provides enough support for a hardened surface on top. On the other hand, cavities form between the rubbers, acting as a buffer for water. The main advantage of ground rubber tyres is that they are very cheap. That being said, there are quite a few disadvantages to this solution. The space created is relatively limited because the rubber is pressed together under the weight of the top layer. Furthermore a lot of diggers are needed for the installation. Another disadvantage is that rubber contains a lot of chemicals that, with time, can contaminate the groundwater.

Beaulex®: DS Smith’s alternative for user friendly and Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)

Beaulex offers an efficient, sustainable and affordable solution to all these challenges. The system consists of ingeniously shaped hollow balls made from recycled post-consumer material with a 12.5-cm diameter. These balls, which are made from recycled polyolefins such as polyethylene and polypropylene, are mass-produced using injection moulding. They are then dumped in the construction pit on a layer of geotextile, which acts as a substrate for the hardened surface. Once covered with a new layer of geotextile and gravel, this creates the perfect base for any type of hardened surface.

The balls have a specific design that creates a cavity with 80% of free space between them. This means that every cubic meter of Beaulex can buffer up to 800 litres of water, because the amount of free space is much greater than with ground car tyres. Beaulex has other advantages too. The soil surface needn’t necessarily be entirely flat, because the balls can naturally spread out and create an even upper surface thanks to their shape. Moreover, the system neither needs construction work nor detailed calculations. Dumping is all it takes. What’s more, unlike with other systems, the side walls require no special finishing, so generally, less geotextile is needed. 

Beaulex closes the waste cycle

The main advantage of Beaulex is that it is the most sustainable solution.  The balls are made using post-consumer plastics,an umbrella term for polyolefins recycled from various waste streams. An example? The little windows on envelopes. When recycled, they are separated from the paper and processed on their own. This low-grade plastic can hardly ever be reprocessed for functional use. Consequently, Beaulex offers a useful way to close the recycling cycle. Once underground, the system is also 100% environmentally safe and it does not require any maintenance. In theory, it should also last forever. Last but not least, the Beaulex production process is sustainable too. The injection mould and the extensive DS Smith network allow for the balls to be produced anywhere in the world. This can significantly reduce both the need for transport and CO2 emissions, particularly for large infrastructural projects. The lifetime of Beaulex is in fact eternal but in case the infrastructure needs to be changed, the balls can be recovered and recycled all over again.