When one thinks of used plastic bottles and chips packets, seeing it turn into a road is not the first thing that comes to one's mind. But it does in Rikesh's 31-year-old mind. He is the proprietor of Bhutan's first plastic recycling plant that is building environment-friendly roads using plastic.
The idea involves coating of aggregate with molten waste plastic before it is mixed with bitumen. Besides being an effective solution to plastic waste, the green road project has curtailed the cost of building roads.
Rikesh came across the idea while pursuing his engineering degree in south India. The project took off in October last year and reduced dependence on fossil fuel in the environment-conscious Himalayan nation.
Roughly eight million tons of plastic is dumped into the world's oceans every year. The majority of this waste comes from just five countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. China and Indonesia are likely the top sources of plastic reaching the oceans, accounting for more than a third of the plastic bottles, bags and other detritus washed out to sea. The rest, i.e. 22 to 43 per cent, of plastic worldwide is disposed of in landfills.
But there are some countries that are trying to do better. For example, Germany claims to recycle and compost 65 per cent of its waste. And even China receives via cargo some 1,500 shipping containers from the US, filled with recyclables that include metals, plastics, rubber, paper, cardboard and textiles, which are used as raw materials by Chinese manufacturers.
Today, the global plastic industry generates revenue of about $600 billion annually, producing products that take 450 years to degrade. In that light, Rikesh definitely is a hero!