Wednesday, June 12, 2019

India experiments with turning ocean plastic into roads


The early morning bustle at Sakthikulangara harbour in Kollam is much like any other on Kerala’s coast. Thousands of tonnes of fish landed by hundreds of boats are being sorted, cleaned and auctioned. But something novel is happening. Each vessel is offloading salvaged waste that crews disentangle from their nets. The plastic will be mixed with bitumen to make roads.

“It is disgusting what we find at the bottom of the sea,” says S Raghu, captain of the Holy Star, which has just hauled in about 30 kilos of waste. “The garbage is competing with the fish.”

Peter Mathias, president of the All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association, says the fishers pledged to bring back the waste from their operations and whatever is caught in the nets.
The plastic waste is then collected by Suchitwa Sagaram (Clean Seas), a Kerala government initiative launched in 2017, and cleaned and shredded  in a special facility.

Suchitwa Mission, Kerala’s flagship waste management programme, helped pay for the shredding machine and six months of costs.

By late February, almost 16 metric tonnes of plastic had been shredded and 145 kilogrammes of plastic bottles had been pressed into bales. But despite the programme’s success, its future is uncertain, largely because of a lack of funds and limited market opportunities.

“More and more road contractors are shying away from using the waste material, citing technical difficulties in melting and mixing it with their road-building material,” says Sudhakaran, the coordinator of the programme in Kollam. “We need to think about other alternatives to recycle the shredded waste.”
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