Plastic Roads Are Proving Longer Lasting in India than Traditionally Paved Ones
People from cold weather climates who visit tropical countries are often shocked at the horrible condition of paved roads. They thought only roads that suffered through extremes of changing temperatures got cracks and potholes.
Not true. The tropical sun and monsoon rains play havoc with asphalt roads in tropical countries, and the roads end up with cracks and craters similar to those you might see on streets in Chicago or Detroit.
One way to make roads that can withstand weather conditions is to add flexible materials to the tar. This has been known for many years, and roads in the U.S. and countries in Europe are sometimes made with this kind of asphalt. Unfortunately, the cost of building these roads is a barrier even though they last much longer.
But India has modified the recipe so that they can use discarded, low-grade polymer. In other words, they’ve started using plastic waste instead of expensive virgin polymers.
Dr. R. Vasudevan came up with the idea and tested his idea through trial and error until he had a process to patent in 2006. If his process is successful, road construction costs could be reduced by 50%.
Jambulingam Street in Chennai is one such road and has proven to hold up better than traditional roads. India’s Central Pollution Control Board reported, “The plastic tar roads have not developed any potholes, rutting, raveling or edge flaw, even though these roads are more than four years of age.”
In March 2016, the process was tested on a 158 km (97.2 miles) highway connecting two Indian cities.
In November 2016, the Indian government stated that plastic roads would be the default method of construction for most city streets in urban areas with more than 500,000 inhabitants.
Road construction companies are not particularly happy that these roads are expected to last much longer than traditional roads, but people will probably be very happy to not have to worry about how potholes are destroying their cars and tires.