It was in 2006 that R Vasudevan, Dean, Thiagrajar College of Engineering came up with an innovative solution to battle the mounting crisis of plastic waste by using it to build roads. He says that plastic and bitumen are both petroleum products and are able to bond well when added to molten asphalt. This makes the road more durable, increases its life and also its ability to carry weight. And now, 13 years later, quite a few major cities in India are using his method to combat plastic waste in the most effective manner.
A study of plastic roads by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) confirmed that these roads did not show the regular defects such as rutting, ravelling or edge flaw even after four years of heavy use. Dr Vasudevan says that one tonne of plastic waste is used with 9 tonnes of bitumen to lay one kilometre of road. This also results in saving one tonne of bitumen which costs approximately ₹ 50,000. Plus, polymerised asphalt has a waterproofing quality, which prevents water from seeping down, thereby improving the life of the road. So, this process is cost effective too along with producing better quality of roads and recycling plastic waste effectively.
Rough estimates suggest that India generates about 15,000 tonnes of plastic every single day, out of which 9,000 tonnes are recycled while the rest is burned or ends up in landfills. And Dr. Vasudevan’s technology makes it a little easier to deal with the plastic crisis. In fact, the government made it compulsory to use plastic waste in road construction 2015 onwards. The Indian Road Congress (IRC) stipulates that all new road construction must use at least 6 to 8 per cent of plastic waste and this presents a great opportunity to recycle plastic as well.
Major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune and many more have actively started using shredded plastic waste in road construction. Other cities like Jamshedpur, Indore and even the state of Maharashtra now use plastic waste for making roads. Till 2018, over 1 lakh kilometres of roads had been built using plastic waste, which is perhaps the best way that our plastic waste can be recycled.