Have you ever heard that the roads are constructed using plastic? You might be thinking such things can happen only in the hypothetical world. But, Please note that plastic roads actually exist and in our country. The man behind this innovative idea to reuse the garbage for building better, more durable and very cost-effective roads is 70-year-old Prof. Rajagopalan Vasudevan.
Popularly known as the ‘Plastic Man of India’, Prof. Vasudevan is working as a professor of chemistry at Thiagarajar College of Engineering, near Madurai — The garbage city of India. It is estimated that about 400 metric tonnes of solid waste are collected from the city every day by door-to-door collection. Prof. Vasudevan seen an opportunity in the pile of garbage. He wisely devised a way to transform common plastic litter including grocery bags and wrappers into a partial substitute for bitumen in asphalt. Laboratory results of mixing waste plastic with heated bitumen and coating the mixture over stone proved positive.
Prof. Vasudevan successfully constructed the very first plastic road inside his college campus. The plastic waste material is first shredded to a particular size using a shredding machine and then the aggregate mix is heated at 165°c and transferred to the mixing chamber, and the bitumen is heated to 160°c to result in good binding. The transformed aggregate is then mixed with heated bitumen to form a mix that can be used for the construction.
Steel city Jamshedpur is one of the first cities in India to have roads made of plastic wastes. Till Now, more than 5,000 km of roads in India has been laid implementing Prof.Vasudevan‘s innovative garbage recycling method. Also, the Central Pollution Control Board and the Indian Roads Congress, two leading government bodies, have endorsed the method.
Practically, if we see building roads from plastic reduces waste and saves money, while replacing as much as 15 percent of the more expensive bitumen in the mix used to pave roads. Another advantage of this method is it requires no significant technical knowledge and no large investments or changes to existing road-laying procedures.
In a country where estimated 15,000 tons of plastic waste is generated daily and at the same time, the country has sizeable infrastructure needs, Prof. Vasudevan’s innovationwill be a milestone to fill the gap.