Plastic has become an integral part of the human kind. Thinking of a world without plastic does not seem to be possible today. Plastic can be found everywhere in our surroundings. From a toddler’s toys to the skyscrapers, nothing is complete without plastic. But the unexpected happened when the manufacturers erased the line between packaging and food, and people started making rice grains with plastic.
However, even though plastic is an important part of our day to day life, its hazardous impact on our environment cannot be overlooked. As stated by the Colombian tribune, plastic is nearly indestructible, as it is made up of PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, which is an inorganic compound. As it is inorganic, it can take over 1000 years to decompose.
Plastic garbage is commonly seen around the country and has started causing several problems. Plastic waste clogs drains, causing floods. It chokes animals who eat plastic bags, etc. Plastics found in fields blocks germination and prevent rainwater absorption.
Recycling plastic can be done only 3-4 times and melting the plastic for recycling releases highly toxic fumes.
Although, the plastic problem seems to be a not-so-good forever gift of human kind to mother earth, it took a visionary like Prof Rajagopalan Vasudevan, to find a cure for this seemingly incurable problem.
“This set me thinking. Since plastic is a product of petroleum this theory of the doctor had to be false. There was a lot of serious talk about banning plastics all over the country and finding solutions to the waste plastic strewn all over. I decided to take up the challenge to experiment with waste plastics and see if I could find a solution,” he says.
Professor Vasudevan works as Professor of Chemistry at Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai. The chemistry teacher is credited with inventing the formula for plastic roads.
Laboratory results of mixing waste plastic with heated bitumen and coating the mixture over stone proved positive. He implemented the use of plastic waste on a road constructed inside the premises of his college in 2002.
“To date, this stretch of road is still going strong,” he says.
In 2006, the Thiagarajar College of Engineering received the patent for this technology.
Prof Vasudevan along with his brilliant ideas, is no less than any patriot. Despite receiving numerous international offers for sharing his idea in return for millions, professor kept it only to India, while sharing his invention with the government for free.
“The advantages of using waste plastics for road construction are many. The process is easy and does not need any new machinery. For every kilo of stone, 50 gms of bitumen is used and 1/10th of this is plastic waste; this reduces the amount of bitumen being used. Plastic increases the aggregate impact value and improves the quality of flexible pavements. Wear and tear of the roads has decreased to a large extent,” explains the proud Plastic Man of India.
This, being an easier way to dispose off plastic, is being used by the Indian government since 2015. India has used this formula to build thousands of kilometres of roads, disposing off tons of plastic, without further polluting the environment, that could have formed another plastic island in the oceans. All thanks to the Plastic Man of India. As it is commonly said for many like Professor Rajagopalan Vasudevan, not all heroes wear capes.