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Plastic scrap roads through the Himalayas

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by - 12/30/2015 5435 Views

Green Road project

Bhutan, situated in South Asia, is a small Buddhist country on footsteps of the Himalayas between India and China, and is home to some 780,000 people.  It is amazing to know that this small country Bhutan has come up with a novel way to pave its roads by using waste plastic. Resource efficiency and a mounting waste problem are hailed as catalysts for the Green Road project.

The Green Road project, a new enterprise set up by a young Bhutanese entrepreneur, is paving Bhutan’s roads using plastic—so much plastic that if all goes according to plan, road construction could soon consume nearly all of the country’s waste plastic scrap. For a nation going through the growing pains of modernization while at the same time maintaining a focus on environmental stewardship, this would be a welcome development.

Gurung, did pounce upon the novel idea for recycling waste plastic scrap for construction of roads while studying at Thiagarajar College of Engineering in the southern Indian city of Madurai. Gurung spoke to “The Hindu” the national daily, that the Central Road Research Institute, in New Delhi, India, will help provide guidance for the venture. India has built more than 5,000 miles of roads using this mixture of recycled plastic scrap and bitumen over the course of the last 13 years.

The country plans to mix after use PET bottles and other waste plastic with bitumen to blacktop its roads of the future. Through this approach, it is hoped to reduce plastic landfilling by up to 40% and to cut bitumen imports from India by 40% too, says entrepreneur and engineer Rikesh Gurung. Roughly 15% of the mix in the eco-friendly roads will be plastic - sufficient to utilise all the plastic waste generated by the nation's 780 000 people.

Bhutan's department of roads has entered into a collaboration with the country’s first waste recycling plant and several construction experts in order to pursue this ambitious project, backed by US$ 78 000 of initial funding. Gurung points to positive results from the 150-metre-long pilot road constructed in October. With Bhutan's traditional roads, over US$ 4 million is spent annually to combat the effects of the Himalayan altitude, rainfall and cold winters.

Rikesh Gurung recently started the Green Road project, a public-private investment that mixes plastic waste with bitumen to create aggregate compound called polymerised bitumen that is then used to pave roads. By doing this Gurung hopes to both reduce the amount plastic going into landfills by up to 40% as well as significantly reduce the amount of bitumen, a viscous petroleum product, needed for laying the roads.

Gurung says that a ton of bitumen will be saved for every kilometer (0.62 miles) of road that’s 12 feet wide. He also predicts that the project will eventually consume all the waste plastic scrap created in Bhutan, even while it only composes 10 to 15% of the road-paving mixture. The Green Road project has already set up Bhutan’s first plastic recycling facility.

The government of Bhutan has authorized the Green Road project to remove plastic waste from landfills. Bhutanese leaders have supported ambitious environmental initiatives in the past, and in 2011 the country announced intentions to make the agricultural system 100% organic by 2020.

Bhutan is also the only country to shun the idea of gross domestic product (GDP) in favor of something known as gross national happiness. This innovative metric, first used in 1971, uses the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of both people and the environment to determine prosperity.

Gurung also recently received help from Bhutan’s Business Opportunity and Information Center in the form of $78,000 of financial support.

Gurung says that he predicts these roads constructed using plastic scrap will not require maintenance for at least five years, a solid duration considering the unforgiving mountain weather of the region can necessitate yearly repairs for many roads. Supporters of the roads think the plastic will make them stronger and more durable while others have concerns about how they will hold up to the rain, cold and altitude.

For now, the Green Road project set up its first demonstration in October along 500 feet of road near Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital and largest city. The stretch used some 1,135 pounds of plastic waste that was collected from a nearby landfill.

The people who strongly favour this idea are of the view that using plastic in the road mix will cut down on the cost of road construction, and help the country deal with the growing problem of how to dispose of its plastic waste.

"While the rest of the world is suffocating with their plastic waste, looks like Bhutan is going to face plastic waste scarcity," wrote Bhutanese academic Passang Tshering in an online blog.  

In the future the Green Road project hopes to use PET bottles and hard plastic to make sewer covers and other drainage blocks, but for now the effort is relying primarily on lighter plastics such as plastic bags.

Category : Plastic

Tags : Plastic Scrap, Waste Plastic Scrap, Plastic Scrap Price, Plastic Scrap Market, Plastic Scrap Trend

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About Georgy Abraham

As the bright morning of 28th May dawned in the year 1972, in the fulfillment of time according to the plan & will of Almighty Godbrought me forth into this world and I was brought up & educated in Orissa. My parents provided me with the best of education in an English medium school with high standa .... more info


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