India’s annual plastic consumption is expected to cross 20 million tonnes in 2020. The main issue with plastics is they break down into microscopic particles and seep into our soil and water bodies. Imagine that the plastic straw you used for a few minutes to sip a drink will lie on this planet for a thousand years!
Eraviperoor Panchayat in Kerala, for instance, has implemented a plastic recycling project which makes use of non-recyclable plastic for laying roads. In 2012, Rajagiri College, Ernakulam, had experimented with polymerised roads by using waste plastics for blacktopping 500 metres of campus road.
This news soon spread and inspired the former president of the Grama Panchayat who was looking for ways to manage plastic waste. The Panchayat Council approached the Public Works Department (PWD) for technicalities. When their idea was approved, they started using shredded plastics along with bitumen for tarring roads. Various awareness drives are also organised to sensitise the locals and ensure participation from everyone.
A plastic shredding machine that can shred 500 kg of plastics a day was installed where all the collected plastic is deposited. The shredded plastic is sold by the panchayat to the PWD, which then uses it in its road construction. So far, the panchayat has sold 800 kg of plastic to PWD at Rs 20 per kg.
The initial success of using plastic waste to construct roads has enabled the Government of Kerala to embed this into a state-wide initiative as a part of its integrated waste management system.
The Suchitwa system is the the nodal waste management programme of Kerala. It has invested in the plastic shredding infrastructure as part of its Resource Recovery Facility, which also addresses recovery of all kinds of waste.