• Are plastic roads really a solution to mitigate plastic waste?

    Let’s take a moment and look around. Are we even considered about how those huge piled up plastic waste in our surrounding is polluting the ecosystems? Despite of the cognizance about the effects on human health from toxic chemicals of plastic, are we hustling to elucidate it? The 16 percent of total waste production is plastic and the most trouble some part is its non biodegradable nature. Need less to say, plastic waste has been a serious problem in Nepal and around the globe.

    What is plastic?

    Plastic is a synthetic, malleable solid, hydrocarbon based polymer which has become an inevitable aspect of every human being due to its convenience, low cost and impervious by any liquid substance. Globally, every individual produces about 50 kg of plastic per year. From the use of plastic to carry stuffs, wrappers and water bottles has exceeded to automobiles, furnitures and miscellaneous things in a short span. It’s nearly impossible to imagine the world without the use of plastic. Despite of its enormous usefulness, it has become a threat to the world now. It cannot decompose and can remain in the environment for more than 2000 years which will affect everything in the Earth: human health, animals, birds, fish, food chain, environment, water resources and tourism. The burning of plastic will also generate toxic gases which harms the environment.

    How can we control it?

    When there is problem, there is also a way to eradicate it. Certainly, various alternatives to chop off this plastic crisis do exist. One of the revolutionary innovation is building roads from waste plastics. Yes, the roads can be constructed reusing plastics but it is not a new idea. It was developed in 2001 by popularly known as ‘Plastic man of India’, Rajagopalan Vasudevan. He is a chemistry professor of Thiagarajar College of engineering, Madurai, who not only turned a big threat into valuable resource but displayed a way to achieve plastic free universe to all the countries. He has been able to build 100000 km of roads in 11 states of India with waste plastics. The technology of plastic roads have been implemented in other countries as well like Australia, the United States, Indonesia, Bhutan and Netherlands. In some countries, the government even made a mandatory policy to use plastic waste while constructing a road. Meanwhile, plastic road technology came into existence in Nepal as well. The Green Road waste management Company constructed a blacktopped 100 meter plastic road in Pokhara on July 19, 2018.

    How plastic can be used to make roads?

    Construction of plastic roads have similar process than any other roads. New machinery is not required to produce plastic-bitumen mix. Rather plastic road is more cheaper than traditional roads. First of all, the dust particles are excluded from plastic(where plastic bottles and pipes are not included) and shredded into small pieces. Then, the sea reheated at 165 °C. Tar is replaced with waste plastic as tar is a fossil fuel. Bitumen, plastic and sand are mixed and again heated at 160 °C. At last, the final mixture is used for construction of roads. Around 300 kg of plastic is needed to blacktop 100 metres of road. The plastic layered roads constructed in various state of India has proved to be environment friendly. It didn’t develop potholes, rutting and any cracks.

    Conclusion

    There are boat loads of advantages of plastic roads. The roads made from waste plastic are more durable, stable and environment friendly. So, it do not require frequent maintenance unlike traditional roads. It remains smooth and creates less potholes. In fact, plastic roads have potential to hold more load than conventional roads and is less likely to get affected by rainwater. It is also cost effective alternative which makes it more reliable. When we are consistently dealing with ailing condition of roads, when we are spending so much on making pitched roads which creates potholes, why don’t we actuate this method in a vast manner? How pleasant would it be to be at plastic pollution which is brutally harming our planet. If we work together in reducing, reusing and recycling the plastics, we can certainly protect our environment. It may take years of struggle for road construction but plastic roads can largely support to achieve greener future.

    Image:  Green Road Waste Management