Plastic Bliss – A Road to Himachal

Initially, invention of plastic acted as a boon to the society, but excess use of plastic deteriorated its importance and it has now become a bane and a global disaster. Plastic, which is a toxic substance, is composed of chemicals which are not only damaging the environment but its unprecedented disposal also creates hazardous environment issues like infertility of land and global warming.

Plastic is known as bliss these days in which it can be used in many useful ways out of which road construction in the recent times is the most popular one. In order to promote development, a very successful and unique initiative is taken by the Himachal Government to build a plastic road which is an easy and feasible method to waste management.

All the waste material made of plastic, like plastic bags, are first separated then cleaned, sliced and then mixed with bitumen that is used in road construction. Plastic is used as a key ingredient in road construction as it leads to less seepage and increase the tenure of the road or one can say that the durability of the road is more than the one made solely from Bitumen.

As the Bitumen coated roads have more strength due to a polymer bonding, these help in better resistance during monsoons due to no formation of potholes. An easy method where the plastic waste is shredded by a simple machine and then heated up to 160 degree C after which it is used to pave roads.

By paving of roads with the use of plastic a constructive role by the government can be seen and Himachal Pradesh stands to be one of the first states in the country to take such a constructive initiative. The usage of it not only saves the use of bitumen which makes this construction cost effective. Besides using the shredded plastic in the construction of roads, various cement plants are also being motivated to integrate solid scientific waste management mechanism into their plants to generate electricity.

A few like ACC Barmana and Ambuja Cements, Darlaghat have started their contribution by co-processing of plastic waste. The Environment Science and Technology Department officials maintained that since the plastic management of the plastic components of municipal and industrial waste remained a major cause of concern, the technological option for use of waste plastic in road construction as admixture to the bitumen was explored by using plastic in road construction, potential environment threat could be converted into an opportunity.

The Government of Himachal Pradesh, unlike other states, banned the use of polythene back in 2004 and on the same hand it planned to ban the use of disposable plastic plates and cups. The “Polythene Hatao –Paryavaran Bachao” campaign got an overwhelming response last year in December by the people of the state. The Government embarked on this not only to rid the state of polythene menace, but also to provide durable infrastructure in the form of strong roads. After the use of polythene was banned, a huge pile of these were collected which the Government decided to utilize for metalling the roads.

On the employment front, purchase of the plastic waste at Rupees 3 per kg with additional rupees to handling charges and also the rag pickers engaged in segregating the plastic for recycling. So far the state has collected 104 tons of plastic waste and has already used 40 tons of the waste to construct the road.

PWD built roads surfaced with plastic which were 42km long by the use of this material. In order to ensure maximum involvement of the administration and other government agencies in the environment protection campaign cash prizes and trophy were offered. The state government would extend incentives to Panchayat’s urban bodies for contribution to proper collection of waste plastics in their respective areas.

Ability to use the non-biodegradable waste which results in long lasting, stronger roads has changed the way waste management is taken up in most parts of our country. Though plastic has always had a negative connotation of being a pollutant, the same pollutant is now contributing in preserving the environment.

In order to save environment from the menace of plastic this effort of plastic road construction is appreciated by many environmentalists too. The small campaigns for collection of polythene’s from various households with the support of NGO’s, Eco Clubs, Govt. Authorities, local bodies, women clubs, youth groups who help in disposing the waste to the right place.

Though a westernized concept, the innovative plastic roads made their journey into India starting from Himachal in the north. Shimla, Kullu, Hamirpur, Chamba are the places on the verge of completion in these projects. Solid waste and plastic management needs serious attention to work out on a more eco-friendly note and have an alternative for a disposal plastic waste and plastic road is one of its ways out.
“The road less travelled” is soon to become the most preferred one!!!!

Snigdha Verma