January 14, 2010 / 1:50 AM / 10 years ago

Plastic paving for eco-friendly Indian roads

BANGALORE (Reuters Life!) - An Indian company has found a novel use for the heaps of ecologically unsound plastic that litter Bangalore: it’s turning it into roads.

K.K. Plastic Waste Management, run by brothers Ahmed and Rasool Khan, collects thousand of tonnes of waste plastic from garbage bins across India’s IT hub through a network of municipal workers, rag pickers and their own employees.

The plastic is then shredded and mixed with asphalt to form a compound called polymerized bitumen. When used in paving, the brothers say it withstands monsoons and daily wear and tear better than traditional methods, and also reduces pot holes.

Scientists agree. Professor C.E.G. Justo, a Bangalore-based highways and roads experts, said the process of mixing plastic waste in road construction enhanced the performance of the road.

“It (waste plastic) gets into some of the voids of the bituminous mix and makes it more resistant to deterioration under wet weather conditions,” Justo told Reuters Television.

Ahmed Khan, the managing director of the firm, says the idea struck about a decade ago when various organizations started anti-plastic campaigns.

“Every day there is 10,000 tonnes of waste plastic and it would all go to landfills, how much of that can you do? There, it does not degenerate or bio-degrade and ultimately it will be a problem so this is the best solution,” he said.

The remaining garbage, separated from the non bio-degradable plastic, can be turned into compost, Khan added.

Several state governments in India have banned plastic bags in recent years, although Bangalore has not.

The Khans say they have helped lay about 1,400 km (870 miles) of roads with their product and, with encouragement from state government agencies, they say the could rid the entire country of its plastic waste.

Unless its bio-degradable, plastic does not decompose and stays in the environment for years, causing grave damage to fish, marine birds and cattle that often choke to death after swallowing plastic bags.

There have been instances in India where hundreds of plastic bags have been found in the stomachs of dead cows who eat food from garbage dumps.

A few years ago, when monsoon rains flooded Mumbai, plastic bags were blamed for clogging the underground drainage system and intensifying the effects of the floods.

India has the world’s second largest road network, but the World Bank says infrastructure limitations are its most serious constraint to growth, and the most serious limitation to rapid poverty reduction.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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