A solution for road, waste woes

Mumbai: A lack of proper roads that hold up, and millions of tonnes of uncollected plastic waste; these are two of India’s major problems. But what if they could be brought together to solve a mammoth problem?

The TedxDharavi event held on Sunday featured a talk by Dr. R. Vasudevan, a man on a mission to help build a cleaner India by ensuring that all plastic waste is utilised. In 2002, while he was dean and head of the chemistry department of Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Dr. Vasudevan innovated a technique of making roads using plastic waste. He patented the technology soon after, and instead of selling it abroad, chose to share it with the Indian government free of cost.

In a free-ranging talk at the event, where Dr. Vasudevan lamented the fact that modern industry produces volumes of waste material that only cause pollution. He also outlined how his plastic recycling method could help the road industry. In his method, plastic is shredded to a particular size and then added to an aggregate mix of bitumen. A normal road requires 10 tonnes bitumen for each kilometre. So a plastic road saves one tonne bitumen for every kilometre laid, where each tonne of bitumen costs ₹50,000 to ₹60,000. One tonne of plastic waste is equivalent to about 10 lakh carry bags.

The thousands of kiometres of roads laid using this method in Dr. Vasudevan’s native Madurai have proved to be both longlasting and able to withstand higher loads. He says that as of 2014, a total 60,000 km of such roads have been laid in Tamil Nadu. His technology has now also been taken to other States and is being used in Hyderabad.

“From all the talks that I have heard, Dharavi seems to be the centre of recycling for all of Mumbai’s municipal waste,” Dr. Vasudevan says.

He says selling plastic for this purpose could be a profitable venture for plastic recyclers in Dharavi. “In Tamil Nadu, the venture has worked well because the government has provided the shredding machine, which costs about ₹1 to 1.5 lakh. And the collection of plastic is done by self-help groups of women. There are many such groups in Dharavi from what I’ve heard,” he says, adding that the self-help groups in Tamil Nadu make a profit of up to ₹20 per kg of plastic sold to lay roads.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2022 2:07:50 AM |

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