Mumbai all set to get plastic roads

Updated: Feb 11, 2020, 07:19 IST | Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

Starting February 15, all authorised asphalt plants asked to supply only plastic-mixed bitumen for civic works; move comes five years after it was made mandatory by the central government

The D'monte Park road extension in Bandra West was made using plastic material in 2018. Pic/ Anurag Ahire
The D'monte Park road extension in Bandra West was made using plastic material in 2018. Pic/ Anurag Ahire

Six years after the concept's approval by the Indian Road Congress (IRC), the city is set to get plastic roads. The civic body has issued orders to all asphalt plants to provide road material that has a mixture of waste plastic from February 15. Contractors must use only plastic-mixed bitumen for roads, henceforth. However, at the moment they have only one vendor providing road material made of plastic waste.

The method has been adopted for road-building in 11 states.

The experiment began in Chennai, when Rajagopalan Vasudevan, a professor from Madurai's Thiagarajar College of Engineering, created the method of building roads by recycling plastic waste. After the Centre's 2015 order made use of plastic waste in road construction mandatory, many metro cities including Chennai, Pune, Indore, Jamshedpur, adopted the method.

The method was tried in Dadar in 2014 but the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) did not adopt it. In 2018, it made the D'monte Park road extension in Bandra west using the method. The step has been deemed successful as the road is in good condition. "While the stretch measures not more than 100 metres and is not a very busy road, it is in good condition after two years," said Asif Zakaria, Corporator from Bandra.

There is tonnes of plastic waste lying unused in the city's godowns. "There is 84,602 kg plastic, seized in June 2018 during a drive, in BMC's godown. It has all types of banned plastic material," said an officer from BMC's Market department.

The D’monte Park road extension has been deemed a successful experiment.  PIC/ANURAG AHIREThe D'monte Park road extension has been deemed a successful experiment. Pic/ Anurag Ahire

After an unsuccessful attempt to get rid of it, the BMC now wants to build roads with it. "There are 12 approved asphalt plants. Road contractors can take material only from them. As per the guidelines, we have instructed them to use 8 per cent of plastic in the bitumen," said a senior BMC officer.

How does it work?

The plastic has to be of the category mentioned by the Indian Roads Congress's guidelines. It has to be cleaned, dried, shredded and then heated up to 165°C. Next, it is added to the bitumen mix, which is also heated up to 160°C. This final mix is used for constructing roads.

The only vendor providing this mix is a Pune-based company which buys plastic from rag pickers or small vendors, processes it and then supplies it to plants. BMC officers claim that the vendor can provide enough material to all 12 asphalt plants. "Once preparation of the mixture starts, other vendors from the city will come forward," said an officer.

Only Low or High-Density Polyethylene, Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) and Polyurethane can be used in road construction, which includes carry bags, sacks, milk pouches, bin lining, cosmetic, detergent bottles, bottle caps, drinking water bottles, household articles, etc.

Water bottles, credit cards, toys, pipes, electrical fittings, furniture, folders, pens, medical disposable made up of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and food trays, egg boxes, disposable cups, protective packaging from Polystyrene (PS) can't be used for road-construction as they release lethal levels of toxins. Also, black-coloured plastic waste is a result of repeated recycling and is not recommended for roads.

Proportion of plastic to be used in the bitumen

No. of states that have introduced plastic roads

How is this better?

  • Higher resistance to deformation and water-induced damages
  • Improved stability and strength
  • Effective disposal of waste plastic

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