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Friday, December 3, 2021

Plastic waste: Road construction

Waste put to good use


Promote plastic waste for use in road construction
AMIR HOSSAIN | Issue Dated: June 30, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Supreme Court | Central Pollution Control Board | Plastic wastes | R. Vasudevan | Plastic Road |

The statement "We are sitting on a plastic time bomb" made by the Supreme Court on April 03, 2013, highlights the grave concern that is posed by plastic waste in India. For instance, the country produces as much as 56 lakh tonnes of plastic waste per annum, as per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The four metro cities, i.e. Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai, generate plastic waste of 689.5, 429.4 425.7 and 408.3 tonnes per day respectively. Moreover, 40% of the total waste is neither collected nor recycled; so they become a continuous source of pollution. In this scenario, the problem is likely to worsen with time as not only is there an adequate waste management system in place but worse, even the existing system does not function efficiently. But not all hope is lost. A new initiative -- of constructing roads using discarded plastic items -- offers a ray of hope in finding a solution to the problem of disposing off hazardous plastic waste.

R. Vasudevan, the Dean and Head of Chemistry Department of Thiagarajar College of Engineering (TCE), also known as Madurai's ‘Plastic Road Man', had laid the first plastic tar road within the TCE campus in 2002. Since then, thanks to the extensive research carried out by him, Bangalore University, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), New Delhi, have helped the nation to construct several trial roads using plastic waste. The Bangalore Mahanagar Palike (BMP) decided to use plastic waste over asphalt to over 40% of the roads under a World Bank scheme in 2005. Similarly, Pune constructed its first plastic bitumen road in 2011. In addition to that, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha recently announced in the assembly that the state is coming up with a plan to relay 1,100 km roads in the rural and urban areas by mixing plastic waste with bitumen. Even Meghalaya might get the first plastic road in the Northeast in the near future.

What's the reason for these states taking a shine to plastic roads? Several reports and experiments have proved that plastic roads are “25% better than unmodified roads and are almost 200% resistant to water absorption. Even the maintenance cost of these roads is very low, while the durability is high. The roads reportedly need no repairing for at least five years.” Moreover, plastic roads would be an added advantage for a country like India, which has a hot and an extremely humid climate, and where torrential rains are responsible for damaging most roads. That's all the more reason why our government and the CPCB should encourage state governments to go for building strong, durable, cost-effective & eco-friendly roads, which will also relieve the nation from non-degradable plastic waste. Not only will this save the environment but it would also be a worthy green initiative, to say the least.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017