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Reliance Industries plans to market ‘Plastic to Road’ initiative

Diksha Munjal Nagothane | Updated on January 29, 2020 Published on January 29, 2020

The new-age environmental evil of plastic waste can be turned into a cost-effective, durable and sustainable application in road construction

Right in the middle of a sea of green, dotted with trees and horticulture crops cultivated by Reliance Industries Ltd, lay the shades of concrete grey, or better yet, concrete green.

Over 40 kilometres of roads in and around the RIL Nagothane Manufacturing Division have been resurfaced using plastic waste. This is a part of their sustainability and circularity initiative to manage and use plastic waste.

India generates 9.4 million tonnes of plastic waste annually. Out of this, 40 per cent remains uncollected and 43 per cent is used for packaging, most of which is single use, a study conducted by Un-Plastic Collective, a voluntary initiative to curb plastic pollution, revealed last year.

Recyclable plastics can be reused 7-8 times, and single use plastic cannot. However, both eventually contribute to net waste generation. Most common single-use plastic like confectionery wrappers, food bags, garbage bags and straws however cause immediate plastic pollution.

Finding innovative ways to utilise this plastic waste is critical if the waste heaps in our dump yards and landfills are ever to be reduced.

The new-age environmental evil of plastic waste can be turned into a cost-effective, durable and sustainable application in road construction, according to Vipul Shah, COO, RIL Petrochemicals.

Durable and cost-efficient

One may wonder what makes plastic useful in road construction. This question was answered by KRS Narayan, the man heading the business development of sustainable solutions at RIL Petrochemicals. “Plastic, when heated at an optimal temperature, acts as a binding agent for traditional road laying materials like bitumen. This mixture does not let water penetrate the roads, hence making them more durable.”

Vipul Shah revealed that using 8-10 per cent of plastic waste mixture with traditional road laying material, can reduce the expenditure on road laying material by ₹1 lakh per kilometre of road. Over 86,000 tonnes of plastic can be used in the construction of roads countrywide. However, clarity was not provided on potential tie-ups and initiatives to expand the project nationally.

The 40 kilometre road resurfaced in Nagothane, weathered the 2,500 mm rainfall in previous year’s monsoon without any potholes.

This success in the trial run, fueled the R&D teams at Reliance Industries to dive further into what started as a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiative.

Commercialising sustainability

Reliance Industries today, made an announcement to launch the commercialisation of the sustainability initiative under the brand name ‘ReRoute’. The end product, which is the plastic waste mixture for road laying, will be sold to infrastructure project contractors and national road authorities.

“The technique of using plastic waste to make roads has been tried out by several players before, but the results were never satisfactory. At RIL, we tried to bridge the gaps that have inhibited the momentum of this process,” said Ajay Shah, the president of the polymer chain. We started our own, as well as outsourced garbage collection and segregation, which enabled us to obtain sufficient raw material. The shredding of plastic waste and making of the mixture by our skilled workers followed.

Shah told BusinessLine that this end product eliminates the need for construction labour to relearn the process, the road laying procedure remains the same.

This is a step in the right direction in order to optimise waste management as the generation of single-use plastic waste remains inevitable. Maximum waste management and recycling however, still have a long way to go in the country. What poses itself as a key factor in India’s plastic problem are the gaps in collective civic responsibility and the municipal garbage collection. Waste segregation, if implemented on a large scale can upstage waste management and disposal efforts.

The writer is an intern with BusinessLine’s Mumbai Bureau and was in Nagothane at the invitation of Reliance Industries

Published on January 29, 2020
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