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On the front foot to effect change

Addressing Waste

Our agricultural fields are polluted by the excessive use of chemical fertilizers and manure. Also, the calcium carbonate that we use in today’s tooth pastes is what makes ground water harder and harder. Only 10% of the chemicals is absorbed by the plantations. The rest gets leeched into the soil. Moreover, the electrical and electronic waste has 2000 varieties of toxic chemicals. Sadly, the industry is interested only in the product and not in its by product. The concrete & ceramic waste can be used and reused. In the earlier times, we used to recycle and helped nature reproduce. With time we learnt not to care and care less.

[box type=”shadow” ]Vijayalakshmi-SridharProfessor R. Vasudevan, Dean and Head of the department of Chemistry, Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai is a man on mission. He is actively involved in converting industrial and domestic waste into useful and feasible raw materials. Here, Vasudevan shares with Vijayalakshmi Sridhar his waste management related researches, products developed and the need for an eco conscious revolution.[/box]

What prompted you to the discovery of converting plastic into a usable component?
How is it used in construction of roads?

It is an evolution. As a teacher working in a polytechnic and consultant in waste, I started researching on productive uses for waste and landed in the discovery.

plasticIn 2001, a lady doctor spoke about the dissolvable quality of plastic. When the plastic ban was in use, I started about reconverting the product plastic into its original petroleum source. Thus we got bitumen, the by product. When Dr APJ Abdul Kalam visited our college, I shared the idea with him. He told me to proceed.

In the recycling process, carry bags, biscuit, chocolate wrappers, pan parag wrappers and tea cups are cut to 3-4 mm pieces, melted and coated over the stones. Tar is poured on it which acts as a binder and gives it extra strength. Since the structure never wears off, it prevents water from entering it and thus potholes are not formed.

In 2002, Jambulingam Road in Nungambakkam was laid under my supervision. After ten years, it stayed good. 16,000km of roads have been laid until 2014 November. The forest and environment department had made use of this methodology to lay the rough terrains in the forest. It has been doing well. Natural road development organization in India has set a target of laying 2500km of road tusing the methodology this year.

Advantages/challenges on the way…

plastic-wasteThe cost is less, cleaning is easy and it requires no maintenance for at least ten years. After ten years, only the surface is scraped off and a fresh coat of plastic is applied for the highways, roads laid before using the methodology. Because of this, 50% of quarry material is saved and the road height will not change too.

Proper training is not there and there is no cross checking mechanism, so it is not done effectively.

Awards and accolades received

Awarded the Tech Icon award in 2014. The patent for the process is with me. Though foreign countries were keen to buy it, I made up my mind to dedicate this to our country

What do you think about the pervasion of plastic in everyday life?

It is the poor man’s friend; People cannot live without it. It is also turning out as a useful resource. The disposal and collection are important.

Polymer-coatedHow do you spread awareness on waste segregation, disposal and management?

The awareness for segregation has to start from home. I visit schools and counsel them. I have started involving the villagers too. The used plastic is collected and separated by the women’s self help groups.

Your future projects or work in progress in waste disposal & management

The plastic used on the wrappers of books and study material can also be used constructively. Even car tires can be used for productive purposes. Plastone, a combination of plastic and stone with no sand and cement will serve as a strong structural material for construction.

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Editor’s Page September 2018

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