A two year project is underway to find a way of using plastic waste as a partial substitute for sand in concrete.
Academics from the University of Bath are collaborating with Indian researchers on the project, which aims to take plastic waste that is going to landfill in the form of carrier bags and packaging and using it as a replacement for part of the sand in the mix.
India is the second largest global manufacturer of cement and its booming construction sector has led to increased demand for concrete, resulting in a rapid rise in unregulated sand extraction from riverbeds, to the extent that such mining is now banned in most Indian states.
However, India’s rapid development is also leading to an unprecedented level of plastic waste arriving in landfill. To solve both problems, the project team will design and produce a concrete mix in which more than 10% of the sand is replaced with shredded plastic waste. The research will also investigate how using plastic in place of sand within concrete affects its strength, durability, fire and thermal properties.
This research has the potential to recycle waste in a useful, commercially-viable way.
Indian project lead Professor Purnanand Savoikar from the Government Polytechnic, Mayem, Goa said: “We plan to train 40 engineering students to design and produce structural concrete from plastic waste and teach them how best to use it during construction. This will help to create awareness of low impact concrete among industry, leading to greater use in general construction.”
Dr John Orr from our University of the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering added: “This research has the potential to recycle waste in a useful, commercially-viable way. At our University’s BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials we will determine the optimum size and aspect ratio for the replacement plastic particles to ensure strength, durability and fire performance criteria can be met, with the aim of providing the Indian construction industry with a viable alternative to sand.”
The research project is funded by the British Council under the UK India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) program, established in 2006 to foster greater educational links between the countries, including knowledge sharing and student mobility.
As Ian Greewoood comments below, although the situation in India is different to many other countries, is this a good use of plastic waste? Will it store up problems in the future when it comes to crushing and recycling the concrete? Share yout thoughts and views below.