Professor Rajagopalan Vasudevan, dean and professor of chemistry at Masurai’s Thiagarajar College of Engineering, nicknamed “Plastic man”, has developed a new method that uses low-grade polymers or plastic waste to manufacture asphalt. For every kilometer of new road they use the equivalent of a million plastic bags. This type of asphalt is also 8% cheaper than the traditional one.
How does it work.
First, the plastic is heated to a low temperature to avoid polluting emissions, in addition to having a more fluid texture. This crushed plastic waste is then sprinkled over the hot gravel. Finally, the asphalt is added to the mixture.
Plastic from very different sources can be used in this process, helping the country to manage the huge amounts of plastic waste that are disposed of daily.
India is one of the main drivers of plastic roads on urban roads. Now, they are going to test it for the first time on a high-capacity road, specifically on the highway between Chennai and Villupuram.
Advantages of this method.
Increases tensile strength by 60%.
Increases the life of the road.
Use local plastic waste on local roads.
Reduces imported bitumen.
Help foster a circular economy.
Reduces carbon emissions.
Reduces maintenance costs.
Reduce the costs of disposing of plastic waste.
No new or special tools or machines are needed.
An alternative to manage the huge amounts of plastic waste and thus avoid its burning.
Bhutan has seen an opportunity in this new asphalt and they have created the company The Green Road, which uses the same technology to asphalt the roads of their country.
In Europe there are also several similar initiatives, the case of the English company MacRebur, which in a similar way mixes crushed plastic with asphalt. In England this method is already being used to fill potholes and to pave private roads.
In the Netherlands, the VolkerWessels company also uses a very particular method to reuse plastic on roads. They use pre-made plastic blocks that would assemble like LEGOS. The modular plastic panels that fit together, removable as needed, with easy access for repairs and a hollow space for basic infrastructure. Rotterdam City Council is going to test this technology on a bike path.
But there are also detractors for this type of plastic “recycling”. This is the case of the German professor at the Freie University of Berlin, Matthias C. Rillig, who fears that these types of roads give off microplastics that can resist, accumulate and, eventually, reach levels that can affect the functioning and biodiversity of the earth.
What is clear is that, as long as we do not look for an ecological alternative to plastic, or its consumption and recycling is reduced to figures compatible with optimal conservation of the environment, we must look for alternatives to recycle or reuse it, especially to avoid ending up in our oceans.
Here you have Professor Rajagopalan Vasudevan speaking about his plastic asphalt: