Road works


Chemistry professor Dr Rajagopalan Vasudevan is turning India's plastic waste into new roads, and is working on a technique for making plastic bricks, too

12th September 2014
By Jeremy Kingsley
Illustration: Charlotte O'Reilly
Illustration of Dr Rajagopalan Vasudevan


A chemistry professor at the Thiagarajar College of Engineering, near Madurai, India, who developed a technique for transforming waste plastic into an ingredient for new roads – as a partial substitute to tar.


It helps tackle India’s enormous, and worsening, rubbish problem – much of it is non-recyclable plastic waste – while making for cheaper roads. They’re better, too: the roads are stronger and more resistant to water, heat and pressure than a normal stone and tar mix.


The method is simple and doesn’t substantially change the road-laying process, making it easy to adopt anywhere. But it takes a lot of plastic: for 1km of road, you need 1 tonne of waste plastic (about a million carrier bags) for 9 tonnes of bitumen (tar). One substantial advantage is that there’s no need to sort or segregate different kinds: nearly all plastic, from supermarket bags to thick PET bottles or multi-layered packaging, can be used as it comes. A mix of gravel, shredded plastic and bitumen is baked at 150C so that it melts and then spread as normal.

What's next?

Vasudevan developed and patented the process in 2006, and more than 3,000 miles of Indian roads have been paved with plastic since. More recently, Vasudevan created monoblocks from waste plastic that could replace traditional bricks.


We want our stories to go far and wide; to be seen be as many people as possible, in as many outlets as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright in the stories on The Long + Short belongs to Nesta and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).

This allows you to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format. This can be done for any purpose, including commercial use. You must, however, attribute the work to the original author and to The Long + Short, and include a link. You can also remix, transform and build upon the material as long as you indicate where changes have been made.

See more about the Creative Commons licence.


Most of the images used on The Long + Short are copyright of the photographer or illustrator who made them so they are not available under Creative Commons, unless it says otherwise. You cannot use these images without the permission of the creator.


For more information about using our content, email us: [email protected]


HTML for the full article is below.