UP government to use plastic waste for constructing 'sugarcane roads'

The sugarcane department in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s largest sugarcane and sugar producer, is mulling the use of plastic waste for construction of ‘sugarcane roads’ for cutting costs and promoting green technology.

‘Sugarcane road’ is the name given to a road constructed by the UP sugarcane department linking cane fields to the nearest mill or highways for faster movement of the cash crop. Currently, the department maintains about 8,000 km of ‘sugarcane roads’ in UP. Last year, the department had constructed or repaired 1,800 km of roads at a cost of Rs 3.50 billion. This year, he department has the target of developing 250 km of ‘sugarcane roads’.

The department would adopt the plastic waste technology as recognized by the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), which has been successfully utilised in Tatanagar (Jamshedpur), Mumbai and Tamil Nadu for road construction.

According to UP sugarcane commissioner Sanjay Bhoosreddy, who is piloting this project, the cost of road construction would fall by almost Rs 40,000 per km by mixing plastic waste in bitumen even as the cost of maintenance is zero and it gives greater durability. “There is no emission of toxic gases as well during road construction and the use of plastic waste would further boost recycling of harmful wastes. The plastic component increases the strength of roads and makes it water resistant.”

The department would procure plastic grain/pellets produced from plastic waste for road construction or source it from the respective municipal bodies. According to estimates, plastic material accounts for 5% of the municipal solid waste. Bhoosreddy said owing to lack of recycling, plastic waste ends up choking the drainage system or get consumed by stray animals. On the other hand, if burnt, it releases toxic gases in the air posing health risk for humans. “During 2018-19, we are targetting to lay 155 km of new roads apart from upgrading other existing roads.”

In this process, the aggregate gravel used in road construction is coated with plastic layer and later bitumen is added. Bitumen is obtained from refining of petroleum, which is imported. Thus using plastic waste would replace bitumen and save precious foreign exchange as well, he noted.

Meanwhile, the department would use plastic waste in constructing a km of ‘sugarcane road in Sitapur district near Lucknow in the first phase. Depending upon the success of the pilot project, the department would further its endeavour, which is estimated to utilise over 207 tonnes of plastic waste in its new and existing roads.

Bhoosreddy has convened a meeting with senior officials of the Flexible Pavement Division of CRRI apart from other stakeholders tomorrow to take forward the agenda and create a roadmap in this regard. He underlined that apart from being economical, the primarily reason was the conservation of ecology through such steps.