Rajagopalan Vasudevan has devised a method by which common plastic litter such as wrappers, bottles and grocery bags can be transformed into a substitute for bitumen asphalt
If you ever come to visit India, you will hardly miss the huge piles of wastes in suburbs —not just in small cities but even in major cities such as Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai. Stray dogs, and at times even beggars, can be seen feeding on this garbage that comprises of food wastes, plastics and even human excreta. Domestic animals also often fall victim to the ‘Indian culture’ of throwing plastics to the roadside, as they die of eating plastic and other indigestible items.
Plastic waste is probably the single largest problem faced by India today. According to country’s Central Pollution Control Board, more than 15,000 tons of plastic waste are generated daily. City administrations are unable to find an effective mechanism to segregate wastes into recyclable and non-recyclable ones. They often outsource garbage disposal to third-party players, who either burn it in secluded areas polluting the environment or bury it, which also poses health risks.
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It is of course an arduous task to bring change within a fortnight in a country with over a billion population — it needs sound thinking, able administration, non-corrupt politicians and most importantly, responsible citizens. And unfortunately, India lacks in many of these. However, there is a glimmer of hope, for India has enough smart people to come up with ‘frugal innovations’ to solve its problems efficiently and cost-effectively.
Madurai-based Rajagopalan Vasudevan is one such innovator. He has invested in a way to address India’s plastic waste problem. The method he has devised transforms common plastic litter — wrappers, bottles, thicker acrylics and grocery bags — into a substitute for bitumen asphalt.
And he is now well known as the ‘Plastic Man of India’.
So far, more than 5,000 kilometres (3,000 miles) of plastic roads have been laid in at least 11 States in India. He is now on his way to make more roads using this technology.
After spending most part of his career in teaching, the 69-year-old Chemistry professor turned his attention to plastic in 2001. According to him, plastic always gets a bad rap. Plastic, in his opinion, is actually a gift from God which, if used wisely, can create wonders.
The key advantages of Vasudevan’s method is that it can accommodate the multilayered wrappings often used to pack snacks such as chips and cookies, according to Bloomberg. These wrappings, which are impossible to recycle, make up an a major contribution to India’s waste problem. In this method, these plastic garbages can be shredded and reused in roads.
Moreover the technology needs no interference from strong machineries. They can be created in warehouses and then installed onto pathways directly. It requires no significant technical knowledge or large investments to transform plastic into bitumen asphalt. Nor does it need any changes to existing road-laying procedures.
While Vasudevan’s university has patented the technology, it has been licensed for free. His innovation also got recognised by some state governments and government bodies such as the Central Pollution Control Board and Indian Roads Congress.
Vasudevan is happy that his technology is now being adopted across India. He can now aim for a wider adoption by tying up with governments in developing countries to create plastic roads and thus address the plastic menace.
More importantly, India can avoid the menace of melting of roads, as we have seen in some states like Gujarat in India during the heat waves during the summer.
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