The garbage menace has been accentuated using every possible means, be it the media, the public, the civic bodies, NGOs, the state government and even the central government.
A city-wide discomfort fuelled by a groundswell of anger brought the incompetence of the civic apparatus, out in the open with muck smeared all over.
Within the mickle mess was a critical concern; a crucial element of dilemma was always popping up from within the muck. Plastic. And the dilemma was its integral role in our lives and its perilous nature once disposed.
The antediluvian and tenuous understanding of its disposal from the people, organisations, enterprises and the civic authorities led to a situation when its existence was being questioned.
And with such weak situational questioning comes innovation, at times though. In 1996-97, when there were rumours of a ban on plastic, two entrepreneurs got into thinking.
After all, their business was manufacturing plastic and if they had to close shop, what will become of them and their 100-odd workers.
A mediocre research was initiated with no particular background in chemical or civil or any other branch of engineering or science.
But what was born through a series of experiments out of sheer necessity to safeguard their future, has today become a patented example of how plastic can be used to ensure lasting and strong roads.
Those days, Ahmed Khan, the 64-year-old face of K K Plastic Waste Management Private Limited and his 62-year-old brother, Rasool Khan, had roamed the darkness of the night, moving around times of struggle, holding just certain memories of boldness.
And today, they are paladins and the first who have been able to translate a product into commercial use, when high-end researchers in Cananda and the US have restricted it only to their laboratories.
Going back to how it all started, Rasool Khan says, “We had a very rough idea and a product with which we used to fill potholes of Jayanagar. Then my son, Amjad Khan, who was pursuing engineering in R V College of Engineering, was asked to submit a project report on civil engineering. I gave this idea to him and he refined it a bit with his friends.
When it was shown to his professor, Dr Kumar, he was spellbound, but when it went to the higher authorities, the project was rejected. But with the assistance of Dr Kumar and professors from the highway engineering department of the Bangalore University, Prof. C.E.G.Justo and Prof. Veer Raghavan, the product was further strengthened.
In 2001, the Central Road Research Institute in Delhi, undertook massive research on our product. And in 2002, then chief minister, S M Krishna inaugurated the first road in Raja Rajeswarinagar.”
In December of 2002, the brothers had a meeting with then Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP) authorities and the concept was introduced as a commercial practice.
Till 2005-06, the brothers laid few stretches in the city after an MoU was signed with the BBMP and then the Land Army required 18 IT-BT roads in different areas. “We took up the job and it included the Brigade junction to Trinity circle, Old Airport Road, the road near Manipal Centre and some others,” says Rasool Khan.
After that, they have been continuously working with BBMP and have laid 1400 kilometers of roads till now using about 5000 tonnes of plastic.
“Around the world, no city has even attempted to have roads using plastic and thanks to BBMP, Bangalore can boast of this achievement,” says Rasool Khan, who feels that there is a dire need for a robust system to be in place for the initiative to take off in full swing.
“It is not just the BBMP, but even the state and central government should be involved and work in unison. We can then dramatically change the national economy. While the initiative will increase the life of the road, it will create self-employment in lakhs.
I think out of the 4000 tonnes of municipal solid waste generated in the city on a daily basis, 50-60 tonnes is plastic. For example, Nayandahalli to Silk Board road is about 14 kilometers and is built using 90 tonnes of plastic.
For 90 tonnes, about 250 tonnes of plastic needs to be collected because it has to be cleaned. If it is collected from source and not allowed to go to the garbage dump, it will give a daily employment to almost about 3 lakh people,” he says.
If there is a system in place where clean plastic can be procured, then there is a lot of time and labour saved, says Rasool.
“If a fixed price is in place for clean plastic, say `6 per kilogram, where will you find plastic. I feel there should be proper involvement of the people as well as the authorities. Sometimes people call us to deliver five kilograms of plastic. It may not be big for us commercially, but we respect their efforts and ensure that our person goes and collects it. For the beginning, such efforts and motivation is necessary,” he says.
Given the lack of a system in place, the brothers have created their own network of pourakarmikas for the last eight years, who are paid `6000-7000 per month.
They have also partnered with certain apartments and schools while also creating workshops to create awareness.
“It is essential that clean plastic is used for the purpose. So we generate awareness among people and students to not let the plastic go to the garbage yard, but is segregated prior to that,” says Rasool.
He stresses on a proper system to be in place essentially because the expanse of this initiative is huge and cannot be done by their enterprise alone. “I feel, corporate companies should come forward and join hands with us to ensure that the city is plastic free. Using plastic, we can make the city plastic free,” he says. Given the fact that tawdry roads are coming up in every part of the country, because of the mendacity and the shambolic format of tendering and the involvement of mega bucks, the initiative is still to get wider acceptance.
“Sheila Dikshit was quite excited about the initiative and had personally called us few years back. But even after 5-6 meetings in Delhi, the project has not seen the light, while on paper we were to be given two acres and `5 crores. In such cases, the channels get more complicated,” says Rasool.
While their product was patented in 2006, there are many copies, but according to Rasool the proportion of bitumen and plastic shreds needs to be measured well.
“If the ratio is more or less, then the result will be bad roads. With time, we have been able to master the proportion. When we are given a contract, we ensure that our people go to the road contractors and make the mixture,” says Rasool.