Given the sheer scale of plastic usage, the earth does not have space to accommodate this growing mound of plastic waste. Unfortunately, plastics have become an unavoidable part of our lives.
For this, many Indian states are coming up with innovative methods of combating this menace.
For instance, Eraviperoor Panchayat in Kerala has implemented a recycling project which uses plastic for laying roads.
Renjith Abraham, who is associated with Suchitwa Mission, a local self-government department of the Kerala government, gives us an insight into the Modus Operandi.
Taking Rajagiri college, Ernakulam, as an example, where, in 2012, the college experimented with polymerized roads by using waste plastics for blacktopping 500 meters of campus road.
The news soon spread and inspired the former president of Grama Panchayat with ways to manage plastic waste. The Panchayat Council approached the Public Works Department (PWD) for technicalities. When the idea was approved, they started using shredded plastics mixed with bitumen for tarring roads.
Kudumbashree, a self-help initiative by the Kerala movement, worked by going door-to-door every 15 days to collect non-recyclable plastic.
Various awareness drives were organized as well to sensitize the locals and ensure participation from everyone.
Anything that cannot be recycled constitutes non-recyclable products. Examples are food storage containers, styrofoam, disposable diapers, bottle caps, and even PVC pipes.
A plastic shredding machine that can shred 500 kg/day was installed, where all the collected plastic was deposited. This shredded plastic is then sold by the panchayat to the PWD, who then uses it in its road construction.
According to studies, there is no reduction in quality by using plastics. In contrast, melted plastics binds the materials and thereby increasing the life of the road.
Renjith informs that the usage of plastics, reduces damage to the road from water, thereby increasing durability and strength.
Bitumen, a black substance made from petrol, is generally used for covering roads. Using less bitumen could potentially save on cost and resources.
The initial success of using plastic waste to construct roads has enabled the Government of Kerala to embed this into a state-wide initiative as a part of its integrated waste management system.
The Suchitwa system is the nodal waste management program of Kerala. It has invested in the plastic shredding infrastructure as part of its Resource Recovery Facility, which also addresses the recovery of all kinds of waste.
One prerequisite for this process is the segregation of waste at the source—it is critical to ensure a smooth recovery process.
A small state with a high population density like Kerala faces severe land constraints for developing engineered landfills.
The campaign “My waste, My responsibilities”, initiated by the state government, brought people together and motivated them to handle waste at the local level. This is now practiced across the state, with separate bins for biodegradable and recyclable waste.
Non-biodegradable waste is then collected and transported to the Resource Recovery Facility, where it is forwarded for reuse and recycle. Plastic shredding machines are part of these facilities, which process plastic waste for road construction material.