Shri Rajagopalan Vasudevan

Plastic waste utilisation: Mindsets need to change

By: Staff Reporter
The ‘Plastic Man of India’, Padma Shri Rajagopalan Vasudevan, former Professor of Chemistry at Thiagrajar College of Engineering, is revered for his innovation of using waste plastic in road construction. Speaking with G’nY he outlines the pivotal role humans play in preserving nature.

G’nY. Making roads out of plastic waste is an outstanding innovation. How did you get the idea?

Shri Rajagopalan Vasudevan : Way back in 2001, a doctor was talking about the detrimental impact of plastic on TV. I was struck by the bizarreness of how animals were found to have died because of plastic. That same day I went to my lab and introspected. I thought that in Tamil Nadu alone there are more than 7,000 industries, yet so many people remained unemployed.  I began thinking of ways to utilise plastic waste to make something substantial, something that would provide employment too. Both plastic and bitumen (an ingredient used in the construction of roads) are by-products of petroleum. So, they belong to same family of elements with similar properties. Hence, the combination of bitumen and plastic seemed plausible.

 G’nY. What is the cost-effectiveness of the material used for building roads out of plastic waste?

Shri Rajagopalan Vasudevan : One km of any road needs 10 tonnes of bitumen whereas roads made from a plastic-bitumen combination needs 9 tonnes of bitumen per km. One tonne of bitumen costs INR 50,000. If we calculate the whole cost of constructing a road then it is 10 per cent less than the cost of a normal road made from bitumen. Hence we can save a large amount. For a road made from plastic waste, one tonne of plastic litter can be used.  Waste plastic is a pollutant and by using it not only do we reduce the environmental burden but also reduce the quantity of bitumen used, freeing up resources and saving in the overall cost.

 G’nY. Is it possible to use plastic waste in other construction material and infrastructural projects like bridges, flyover, buildings etc.?

Shri Rajagopalan Vasudevan : Plastone can be used for platforms near roads, for table tops and various other things. Instead of granite, I recommend the use of plastone for various construction purposes.

G’nY. On what scale has the method pioneered by you been used in India?

Shri Rajagopalan Vasudevan : The innovation of plastic roads has already been used and implemented by all states in the country. One lakh km of roads made from plastic waste have already been laid. The technology is also being used under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) along with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). Further, the government has made it mandatory for all the road developers in the country to use plastic waste along with bituminous concrete for road construction.

 G’nY. What are your thoughts about the future?

Shri Rajagopalan Vasudevan : As human beings, we should cooperate with each other and strive to preserve nature and its beauty. We are the ambassadors of this world. We must take care of this world and not land up polluting it and driving it to its end. It is up to us to join hands and take responsibility to protect our planet.

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