The plastic man of India who paved a new road to counter plastic menace!
The plastic man of India who paved a new road to counter plastic menace! | Credit: Scroll

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The plastic man of India who paved a new road to counter plastic menace!

Oct 17, 2018

The term ‘Plastic Man of India’ has been rightly coined for Prof. Rajagopalan Vasudevan. He came up with a sustainable solution to solve the waste management woes that are faced in Indian cities. His recommendation was to mix bitumen with plastic waste and then, use the resultant mixture for coating the roads.

The Plastic Man of India

He is employed at the Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai, as a Professor of Chemistry. Giving due recognition to his substantial contribution to society, he was honoured with the Padma Shri award on Republic Day in the year 2018.

Moreover, in the year 2015, the Government of India has made it mandatory for road developers to use waste plastic for constructing pathways. The objective is to dispose the plastic waste in an efficient manner.

On a daily basis, you may be using plastic-based goods such as cups, bottles, packaging material, and carry bags. Plastic is lightweight, odourless, durable, easy-to-manufacture, and chemical resistant and serves many purposes. Yet, plastic does not decompose, and this is the main drawback of using the material.

Furthermore, plastic waste causes clogging of drains and subsequently, floods. Also, street animals get choked due to consuming plastic. In the fields, plastic prevents the absorption of rainwater and blocks the germination process as well.

It is , also, important to bear in mind that plastic is only recyclable only 3–-4 times. Also, toxic gases in the atmosphere are released when plastic is melted during the recycling process.

Prof. Vasudevan set about to find a solution to dispose plastic efficiently after a lot of hullabaloo was created to ban plastic in order to save the environment.

After several laboratory experiments, he came up with a viable solution to use plastic waste. He conceived the idea of building roads with the plastic waste.

As part of the new road construction process, a shredder is needed to shred the plastic waste. In the meanwhile, the aggregate mix is subjected to temperatures of 165°C and then, decanted in the mixing chamber. Also, the bitumen is exposed to heated temperatures of 160°C.

Thereafter, the plastic waste shreds are combined with the aggregate and becomes oily in appearance. The heated bitumen is then, added to the aggregate mixture. This manufactured material is utiliszed to construct roads. During the road laying procedure, the temperatures are within the range of 110°C– - 120°C.

Plastic waste is used in the road-building mixture

There are several advantages of using plastic in road construction. The process is fairly simple and also, no new equipment is required. To lay every kilo of stone, bitumen amounting to 50gms is needed and 1/10thone-tenth of the mix is plastic waste; thereby, minimiszing the quantity of required bitumen.

The primary advantage of using plastic waste for road building purposes is that the deterioration of the roads has reduced considerably. Moreover, no toxic fumes are emitted; thus, the process is described to be eco-friendly. Additionally, more jobs have been created for rag pickers; and they can earn much more.

Plastic waste in road construction is, also, helpful because the road’s strength is magnified; which in turn, lowers road fatigue. Also, the roads become more resistant to rough weather conditions and rainwater. Additionally, a large quantity of plastic is needed for building roads and serves as a competent solution for resolving the plastic waste issues that Indian cities are grappling with.

Another innovative solution by Prof. Vasudevan is the invention of ‘plastones’; they are engineered by mixing plastic and stone. In the year 2012, he invented plastones. Due to their ability to withstand pressure and prevent water percolation, these blocks have varied uses. They serve as substitutes for cement blocks and are also, used as liners in water bodies.

For producing 1 plastone, 300 plastic bags and around 5-6 PET bottles are needed. Therefore, the plastic bottles that choke the city’s streets come handy.

Plastic waste can be used efficiently

FINALLY

Several countries around the world have approached Prof. Vasudevan to share his formula. The fact cannot be disputed that he has found an efficient solution for the waste management problems that plague our cities. We salute the man and thank him profoundly for making this world a better place to live in— - for us and the future generation as well.