Turning to plastics for a better future

“One evening, while returning home, I did not see a pothole and had a small accident. This got me thinking about possible solutions for the porthole problem in Nepal.” shares Bimal Bastola co-founder of Green Road Waste Management. “I came across an article about a road made by plastics in Bhutan. After more research, I came to the conclusion that plastic roads could be a solution to Nepal’s problems.” This was how Green Road Waste Management- a company that turns waste plastic to pothole-free roads, started.

Patented in 2006 by Dr. Vasudevan, from India, this technique uses plastic either as a binder or to make the actual road. Till date plastics have been used to make roads in Australia, Bhutan, Ghana, Indonesia, India, the Netherlands and United States of America. However, since this is a very new application of plastic, the Government of Nepal has been hesitant to let Green Road Waste Management make roads with plastic. They received permits to build a road in Pokhara, particularly for research and trial purposes. In building this road, the team had to overcome further obstacles such as lack of proper manpower and machines, and the general lack of acceptance from the public. “Since no one had done it before, making the road in Pokhara was difficult. People were hesitant and did not trust its durability.” 

After successfully building and testing the road in Pokhara, many municipalities are now showing interest in similar roads. “We are currently in talks with Godavari municipality and ICIMOD, while Kathmandu University, Kirtipur municipality, and other municipalities in Pokhara have also shown interest in building roads with plastic. In total we expect to build 5-7 Km of roads in the next couple of years,” shares Bimal. Although more municipalities and institutes are showing interest in these roads, the Government of Nepal still has some reservations and wants “test reports before they can back this solution. But unlike the Indian or Bhutanese governments, the Nepali government is not providing the roads to test this solution; therefore we are trying to partner with universities to study the roads that we build. We will study the strengths, water absorption rates, along with road behaviour in different climates and submit a report to the Government of Nepal. We are hoping this will help make plastic roads accepted by the government and the public.”

“We built the test road in 2018, so it is relatively new and we don’t have data on it. However, the first plastic road, built in India about 12 years ago, when observed in its current state shows that the plastic road is in better condition than roads made from traditional materials.” Bimal, a mechanical engineer who has previously worked in plastic commodity for Fiat-Chrysler in India, sees a lot of additional benefits that plastic roads can bring.  “With such roads we can create more jobs because the plastic will have to be collected and sorted. We will help decrease problems at landfill sites, since less plastic will end up there. Furthermore, we will prevent the plastic from being burnt, thus decreasing environment degradation.” The burning of plastic is a major issue in Nepal, generating high amounts of carbon emissions; however in building these roads this are no harmful emissions.

Green Road Waste Management is looking for investment to buy plastic processing machine and to set up their factory. They also plan to buy plastic collection vehicles and secure an area for plastic collection and processing. The company aims to invest in streamlining and increasing automation in the immediate future.

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