The unseen Magic of Plastic

Shruti R Sharma
On 2nd October 2019 when the world celebrated the 150th birth anniversary of M.K. Gandhi; India took the biggest leap towards MEGA (Making Earth Green Again). The decision of minimizing the use of plastic all over the country is going to have both positive and negative impact from various points of views but overall this decision is crucial to saving India from getting buried under the mounds of plastic waste.
Menace of Plastic waste
According to a report from Central Pollution Control Board, India produces around 2700 Metric Tonnes (MT) of plastic waste per day but due to the failure of filing reports by various Regional Pollution Boards of India, this figure is far less than the actual amount of waste being dumped. Only 20 per cent of this 2700 MT is processed/recycled and the other 80 per cent remain dumped in the barren lands. The piles of plastic wastes have now turned into massive mountains of wastes and who knows they might compete with The Himalayas one day. With the step taken towards the mitigation of Solid wastes, it appears like a change might have come which can be observed in the unison response from our citizens too. People of Jammu and Kashmir have also started to carve this change in their lifestyle. Not only are people bringing their carry bags to their grocery store shopping but the shopkeepers are also switching from poly-bags to paper-bags. But in between the enthusiasm of doing something great for the nation and earth, we are somewhere forgetting the magic of this scientific wonder.
No doubt that it has turned from being one of the biggest human inventions to an environmental scourge within a century or more but it makes me loath to state that it also made our life easy to some extent. So a 100% ban on the use of plastic is something tough to imagine. What we can do is to think of the ways to decompose or use the non-recyclable plastic in a way that will not ruin our environment.
Plastic and Road construction
The use of plastic is inevitable, and so is the construction of roads. When in 1996 Karnataka government banned the use of plastic all over the state, two brothers, Rasool and Ahmed Khan (Bangalore), who earlier used to earn their income from selling plastic waste, related this inevitability and took it on a venture of using the plastic wastes in roads construction. ‘Anything the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve’ would probably be the best way to describe their story. They gave a concept to spread the piles of plastic on roads. Initially, they started with filling potholes in 1996 and ended up laying a 10 km road in 2002 which is still intact. The process is simple, the waste plastic collected (mostly SUP’s) is put into the shredder. The churned out plastic is then stored in bags for weeks to drain out their moisture completely and later it is mixed with Bitumen to make roads. A normal road has a lifespan of 3 years but in case of roads having Bitumen-Plastic mixture, this number reaches up to 6-7 years. Not only does it withstands the heavy monsoon showers but also reduces the chances of potholes which Indian roads are prominent for.
Akhnoor four-lane Road Project
The prevailing four-lane road project on the Akhnoor Highway can implement a similar procedure. In this way, the menace of plastic will be a resource for the road construction and the plastic waste generated can hence be consumed. If the concerned authorities are willing to make highly durable and pothole-free roads, then laying plastic on the full length of Jammu-Akhnoor Highway is what they should be discussing.
This will not only provide smooth rides to the daily commuters but can also become a role model for other states. Since the abolition of plastic is on its verge and 16-year olds are asking questions about the existence of earth in the near future, the least we can do is ‘try’. Some of the Norwegian countries like Sweden are making Bio-fuel (methane) from the plastic waste and from that fuel they are running their public buses successfully. If they can pull it off, so can us. Plastic was no doubt a fatal invention of mankind but as they say “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit” and we need to keep looking for such benefits.