This article is contributed by Shalini Sharma in an exclusive talk with Prof Rajagopalan Vasudevan
It is absolutely true that necessity is the mother of invention, as said by a 72 year old ‘Plastic Man of India’, Prof Rajagopalan Vasudevan, who is currently, a Professor of Chemistry at Thiagarajar College of Engineering in Madurai.
“Day by day, as plastic has been becoming an integral part of all the human requirements, man, who had initiated its use now wants to ban it due to raising concerns over its non degradable nature.”
While raising a concern over the ban of plastic production by the government, Vasudevan said “We have so many industries in TN alone that supply plastic material and if we try to ban those industries, then what will happen to the people who are engaged in this profession? ”
While recalling his memory, Professor said, “It was a medical doctor who said in a TV show that the plastic dissolves in water bodies and if an animal drinks it, it will die.” This theory of the doctor made him think that the plastic is a product made of petroleum so, plastic can dissolve in water; hence the theory has to be wrong.
Due to its durability, the people of India cannot imagine a life without plastic given the fact that products like carry bags, bottles, packing material, cups etc. made of it have slowly replaced the products made of any other material.
“Also, plastic is very friendly due to its durability, so I thought that it can be used three to four times for recycling, as melting of the plastic for recycling will release a high amount of toxic fumes. Further, I tried to dissolve the plastic in the tar which was a successful attempt”, Vasudevan said.
During his experiment, he mixed some amount of waste plastic i.e., carry bags, biscuit wrappers, thermocol and foam with heated bitumen. Then, the mixture was coated on a stone which proved to be a success..
In this process, the strength of the roads will be improved with no potholes and cracks in them. They will have great resistance towards rain water and cold weather. This process will require a large amount of plastic for a small stretch of road. Moreover, this process will provide additional work for the rag pickers.
In 2002, while experimenting, the professor implemented the use of plastic waste in constructing the road inside his college i.e. Thiagarajar college of Engineering, Maduri for which he received a patent for the construction later on.
The Government of India has already started this initiative in 11 other states, including Tamil Nadu. Even other countries like Indonesia have approached for this technology. Pakistan has also come forward to appreciate this initiative.
“This initiative will be free of cost for our country and we will make it work under the ‘Make in India’ concept. Moreover, Prime Minister Modi has also appreciated this process of making the roads, so we are trying to make this country pollution free as per the Swacch Bharat mission, given the fact that plastic cannot dissolve in water and this method will surely reduce the piles of wastes”, Vasudevan concluded.
Mr Vasudevan’s work is truly inspiring and an Untold Story of India.