While everyone decries the excessive use of plastic, one man decided to put it to use. Professor Rajagopalan Vasudevan, Professor of Chemistry at Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai is also known as the Plastic Man of India!
Plastic has overtaken our lives and no matter how hard we try not to use it, it manages to sneak in. This is because of the very nature of this substance. It is light, durable, easy to produce, unbreakable, odourless and chemical resistant. But, plastic does not decompose, and that is the problem we face today. Plastic is clogging drains, causing floods, choking animals and in fields it blocks germination and prevents rainwater absorption. Plastic can be recycled only three or four times. When it is melted, it releases highly toxic fumes.Using plastic
Professor Vasudevan's experiments of mixing waste plastic with heated bitumen and coating the mixture over stone proved positive. He implemented the use of plastic waste on a road constructed inside the premises of his college in 2002. The road proved strong, and is still in use. In 2006, the Thiagarajar College of Engineering received the patent for this technology.
According to Prof Vasudevan, “the advantage of using waste plastic for road construction is that the wear and tear of roads is decreased. Moreover, the process is easy and does not need new machinery. And this has created a new job for rag pickers. By adopting this method, the amount of waste plastic will drastically reduce.
But Prof. Vasudeven wanted to do more with plastic. He decided to try and create a stone block with a plastic coating. In 2012, he made ‘plastone’, a block made with a mixture of plastic and stone. He found that it withstood more pressure and was resistant to water percolation too. Each plastone block consumes 300 plastic carry bags and around six PET bottles! Plastones can be used for flooring, especially outdoors. It is cheap and strong and a good substitute for cement blocks.
The college, and the professor in particular, have been receiving many queries from various countries in Europe and the Americas for this technology.
But the professor has only this to day - “Swacch Bharat is our first priority. We will first help India dispose of its waste material by spreading the message about the use of plastic waste in road construction and usage of plastone. Once we have made headway in almost every part of our country, we will share this technology with other countries.”
A Government order in November 2015 has made it mandatory for all road developers in the country to use waste plastic, along with bituminous mixes, for road construction.