There are many reasons why plastic water filled barriers are chosen over traditional concrete barriers. For some, it is a matter of cost while for others it is the portability factor that makes them appealing.

There are also instances where a plastic barrier may not be the best choice.

To fully understand their uses, let’s explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of using plastic barriers. Before we discuss the pros and cons of using plastic barriers, we should explain what they are.

Plastic barriers are hollow plastic structures that are formed from polyethylene. They are manufactured to be lightweight and portable, some gaining additional strength and stability from being filled with water or sand once they are onsite. They are effective for traffic control on highways and around work sites. Plastic barriers are also very useful for crowd control and pedestrian walkways. They are available in various shapes, sizes, colors and price ranges.

Plastic Waterfilled Barrier Advantages

Light Weight

Plastic barriers are made of a lightweight polyethylene which is much lighter than traditional concrete barriers. The lighter design makes these barriers very portable and a great option for temporary work sites and events. Trucking costs are also substantially lower due to the lighter design. Since they are not permanently attached to the ground, they can be reused many times which will save the cost of having to purchase new barriers.

Less Labor Intensive

Their portability and lightweight also means they are less labor intensive and can be handled and installed easily by two individuals. Many designs allow for movement of the barriers with a forklift. Special 6” wide grooves designed into the barriers allow for easy lifting and relocation. The male / female interlocking design makes it easy to create a continuous wall without the use of cables or pins.

Color Variations

The polyethylene plastic comes in a wide variety of brilliant colors which allow them to be easily seen even from a distance. Visibility is a vital component of the plastic barriers effectiveness. An ultraviolet light inhibitor is added to the plastic to insure the colors won’t fade when exposed to long periods of sunlight.  Since the barriers are made from polyethylene, they are 100% recyclable and will not end up in landfills.


In addition to the colorful plastic, these barriers are made to accommodate lights, signage, and reflectors for added visibility. Custom logos can also be incorporated into the design during the tooling process, which can help prevent theft of your barriers from jobsites.


Each barrier is molded to a thickness of 8mm to ensure they do not burst upon filling. They will not crack or break under normal use and are built to withstand the elements over long periods of time. They also have large drains to prevent water from backing up behind the barriers.

Barrier Sizes

There are a variety of sizes and design available, from the standard Jersey barrier heights of 42 and 46 inches to the taller 54 inch design and the low model barriers which are generally 24 to 34 inches in height. The lower heights are ideal when visibility may be impaired by utilizing a higher barrier. Plastic barriers are a great choice for temporary projects which may require continued relocation of the barriers. They can be moved between work sites or events with ease and stored when not in use. Plastic barriers are also available for specialty installation such as highways and military operations.

Plastic Highway Barriers

The highway barriers meet the specifications of the NCHRP (National Cooperative Highway Research Program) Report 350, “Recommended Procedures for the Safety Performance Evaluation of Highway Features”, making them effective in containing vehicle failures up to 60 MPH. The highway barriers include metal reinforcements on both sides which give them the added stability for this application.

Blast Barriers

Plastic blast barriers are also available for military use. Filled with either sand or water they prove to be effective for many applications including, anti-terrorism, building security, blast mitigation, and force protection. The combination of strength and portability make them an ideal choice.

Disadvantages of Plastic Waterfilled Barriers

While the advantages of plastic barriers are quite prevalent there are also some disadvantages to using plastic barriers. Most are based on their strength limits when utilized in areas where large vehicles like tractor trailers and construction vehicles are more apt to collide with the barriers. They will not provide the same level of protection against workers and equipment that concrete barriers are able to.


Plastic barriers are a great choice for roadway safety, crowd control, and parking installations. They are lightweight, portable and more cost-effective than concrete barriers while providing the level of safety necessary for your project. However, it is important to understand the weaknesses they do possess to allow for proper adaptations and precautions to be taken in specialty situations.