The government of Tamil Nadu, a southern state in India, has been working on ways to recycle plastic. For the past five years, they have been using it in road construction. So far, over 1600 tons of plastic have been used on 643 miles of roads.
Plastic is a major problem; 300 million tons of it are produced every year, and only about 22 percent of it gets recycled. Plastic does not biodegrade, so it lingers on as a pollutant. Every year, about 8.8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans to the detriment of many species that live there.
S.P. Velumani, the Municipal Administration Minister, explained in the state assembly that because of the threat plastic poses to the environment and to animals, the government considered it vital to find ways to effectively reuse and recycle plastic.
Tamil Nadu’s government has earmarked a special fund towards the plastic roads, and various urban organizations are also contributing funds. Part of the money goes to training groups of workers how to collect, sort and shred the plastic waste that will be used to construct the roads.
The technology used to make plastic roads was invented by a chemistry professor named Rajagopalan Vasudevan who first began working with plastic in 2001. He has found that plastic roads have several advantages over conventional roads. To begin with, they are more durable than other roads and thus cost less to maintain. No new machinery is needed to lay down a plastic road. The roads are hollow and can therefore accommodate pipelines. They are made in sections and can be stored in warehouses near the construction site.
At least ten other states besides Tamil Nadu has been using Vasudevan’s technology to make plastic roads. So, far a grand total of 5,000 km (3107 miles) of plastic roads have been laid down.