It’s a wake-up call for all municipal corporations. With plastic, considered to be a menace in across the nation, it is time to put [plastic] for good use. An estimated 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated in India every day. If all the roads built in the country between 2013 and 2016 had used 6 to 8 per cent plastic waste, as stipulated by the Indian Roads Congress (a standards body of engineers and professionals), the country could have managed to take care of more than 330,605 tonnes of plastic scrap.
The plastic road technology, when it was patented by Dr R Vasudevan, Dean, Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai in 2006 created excitement as it came as an answer to the nagging problem of waste plastic disposal. A performance appraisal by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) showed that plastic roads did not develop familiar defects: potholes, rutting, ravelling or edge flaw, even after four years.
Besides opening up an avenue to use plastic waste, the roads built with polymerised asphalt last longer. The waterproofing quality ensures that the water doesn’t seep down, thus reducing wear and tear. While asphalt roads are expected to last for three years, roads with plastic as an add-on aggregate ensures longevity of seven years. The waterproofing makes the roads ‘pothole-proof’. Roads with the polymerised mix also don’t crack or melt under extreme heat conditions.
Despite, the Centre’s guidelines for laying roads with shredded plastic, the adoption of technology has been tepid by civic authorities, despite clear benefit. In a State like Tamil Nadu, most of the roads have adopted the technology and constructed roads using plastic. However, other States are yet to give a serious thought and have not moved beyond pilot project. According to an official report, over 16,000 km of plastic roads were laid in Tamil Nadu till 2014. Roads are constructed using waste plastic in Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya and in neighbouring Bhutan.
The Centre told Parliament in August that the Roads Ministry “encourages” the use of waste plastic in National Highways construction, especially on National Highways within a 50 km periphery of urban areas that have a population of 5 lakh or more. The guidelines for the use of waste plastic stipulate a stretch of at least 10 km as a pilot project for assessment, so as to make it compulsory in highways contracts. So far, however, no National Highway has been constructed with waste plastic and no target has been set for it during 2017-18.