Plastic waste finds a useful purpose in an innovative way

Chhimi Dema

From reducing waste in the country to fewer potholes, mixing churned plastic with asphalt and aggregate brings many benefits.

Green Road, a construction company, made use of 520MT (metric tonnes) plastic waste from landfills to construct 80km (kilometres) of plastic roads in Thimphu, Haa, Paro and Phuentsholing in the last seven years.

Researches say that using aggregate coated with plastic offers better resistance to abrasion, wear and tear.  Moreover, the strong bond between plastic coated aggregate and bitumen increases the lifespan of the road.

Green Road’s founder, Rikesh Gurung, said that using plastic on road increases its load withstanding property.  And the maintenance cost is minimal, for up to five years.

The company collects plastic waste from landfills and from the Pasakha Industrial Estate, which generates about four to five metric tonnes of waste in a day.

The shredded plastic waste is coated over the aggregate, then mixed with asphalt, and laid on the roads.

Rikesh Gurung said that the hierarchy of managing waste is different in the country.

“In our country, waste gets dumped in the landfill first. The waste handlers then extract the waste,” he said.

In countries like Japan, waste management follows the hierarchy of reducing, reusing, recycling, incinerating.

Rikesh Gurung said that the agency for waste management, private companies handling waste, and households in the country work on their own.

There is a lack of support even if the waste handlers initiate a systemic waste segregation method, he added.

According to a 2019 report from the National Statistics Bureau, a total of 190MT of solid waste is generated in a day in the country, of which 17.1 percent constitutes plastic waste.

Green Road is today a self-sustaining company.  It trains ventures in the region and does road construction work outside Bhutan.