This technology was first used by Tyagraja College of Engineering in 2002 with a pilot inside the college campus. The technology is patented by TCE, Madurai, under the guidance of Dr R Vasudevan. Tata Steel’s Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company (JUSCO) then got in touch with Prof Vasudevan in 2009, understood the process, reengineered it and implemented it, as per its own conditions and machineries. “We were the first to do it in eastern India, with a vision to replicate it further in other cities,” says Gaurav Anand, Chief Manager, Business Excellence, JUSCO.
There is hardly any difference in constructing roads with this technology compared to conventional road construction methods. The mixing of shredded plastics is the only additional process. Yet, recycling plastic wastes by mixing them with bitumen can help build stronger, better quality roads at a cheaper cost.
“The technology is about utilising the lowest-end plastic waste, which hardly has any recycling value and would have otherwise polluted water bodies, choked the nallahs and killed animals if consumed by them,” highlights Anand. “The biggest advantage of plastic roads can be seen during the monsoon, when there is water-logging on the road and still no potholes are formed.” He elaborates that the main reason is that the aggregates used in this construction are pre-laminated or coated with plastics, which stops rainwater from percolate through, hence contributing to longevity. Besides, it ensures better quality, water-resistant, maintenance-friendly roads, among other benefits. In fact, its longevity is twice that of bitumen-only roads. Further, it is maintenance-free for the first five years.
Other qualities of plastic-tar roads include:
Environmental benefits include:
Investment, cost and returns
There is no additional investment using this technology. In fact, there is a reduction in the cost and saving of bitumen. When comparing a road constructed with this technology, the cost is about Rs 50,000 less than a conventional road, considering the construction of a road surface area of 4,000 sq m, highlights Anand. Where 1 tonne of bitumen costs Rs 50,000, the same volume of waste plastic would cost Rs 10,000. About 10 per cent of bitumen can be substituted by plastic. When calculated, using plastic wastes would save about 1 tonne of bitumen or Rs 40,000 net for 1 km of a 4-m-wide road. Further, there is no maintenance expenditure for five years. The returns include a clean environment, free from plastic waste; better roads without any deformation from rain or traffic load; saving natural resources; and using plastic waste effectively in an eco-friendly manner.