February 22, 2012

Plastic Waste -- Ecology

Many articles are now appearing in Tamil newspapers concerning the use of plastic waste for the making of road surfaces.

As any visitor to Tiruvannamalai will tell you, plastic is a blight and scourge on this hitherto rustic and unspoilt country town. We managed perfectly well before the advent of plastic and would be the better for it, if all plastic bags were hereto banned throughout the area. Discarded plastic kills both domestic and wild animals, blocks waterways, causes bad odours and the spread of disease, is ecologically unsound and in addition is aesthetically a blot on the land and town.

A friend of mine who used to be involved in the development of small businesses in Tiruvannamalai District told me that for many years she and her associates were engaged in discussions with various Government Departments trying to persuade them to ultilise plastic when preparing road surfaces. Supposedly the various bodies (at that time) were against her proposals because the efficiency of such roads would interfere with the yearly business of relaying traditional bad quality road surfaces around Tiruvannamalai.

But now that such roads will be actually laid around Tamil Nadu, I am feeling disappointed. Perhaps better than utilising used plastic for road making, the discussion should be more concentrated on the outright ban of the use of packaging plastic in Tiruvannamalai.

Related articles are reproduced below:-

Sell Plastic Waste
“The trash in your kitchen has now acquired value. To encash it, all you need to do is segregate the plastic waste at home and sell it to the Chennai Corporation for as much as Rs.20 kg. They want it for relaying the battered roads in the city.

The Corporation has already initiated the process to fix norms to procure plastic of low microns from the public for use with bitumen while relaying roads. That will kill two birds with one stone: your neighbourhood will be free of non-biodegradable waste and the roads will be able to withstand the wear and tear. It will also put some money in your pocket.

To complete road-relaying, the civic body estimated that it would need 800 tonnes of waste plastic and launched a special drive last month to collect it at its 200 ward offices. Yet, it has been able to collect only 110 tonnes so far. “We have about 10,000... staff and if they collect one kilo of such plastic, the civic body would be able to get 10 tonnes of plastic waste everyday.”

Cleaning Waste Plastic
“Corporation gets 20 tonnes of plastic every day from residents. The Chennai Corporation will soon call for expressions of interest from firms who have the know how to clean and dry plastic being collected for use in road re-laying.

“There are technologies available for cleaning plastic material. The plastic that we are getting presently is not very clean and we cannot use such plastic directly in road work,” said a civic body official. The Corporation gets around 20 tonnes of plastic every day from residents.

The plastic that can be used for road re-laying should be 20 microns - 80 microns thickness. Carry bags, milk packets, oil packets and plastic covers used to pack pulses, rice or other food items can be handed over to collection centres at ward offices. “These are materials that every home generates and disposes with other waste as old paper marts do not buy them. We want residents to collect and bring them to ward offices. However, pet bottles, PVC pipes of broken buckets would not be accepted,” said a civic body official. Work on re-laying roads and patching up potholes is in progress in several areas across the city. To ensure quality of the work done, the civic body is deputing engineers to supervise the work at all locations. To maintain the gradient, it is asking contractors to carry camber boards.

“We are ensuring that the heat of the asphalt mix is correct. In some locations we have even asked the contractor to re-lay the road if any of the norms are not being followed,” said a senior official.

Civic body officials carry digital thermometers and infra red guns to record the temperature of the mix.”

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