New Delhi: ‘Why can’t plastic be recycled,’ as a basic question in his mind, Kevin Jacob, a graduate from Model Engineering College, Kerala started his journey towards his dream – to create a nation free from plastic waste. Today, he has successfully cracked the solution of how to manage plastic waste and is looking for the right platform to share it with the world. What this swachh warrior has done together with his engineer friends is, find a way to successfully convert plastic waste into solid bricks – be it plastic bag, plastic bottles, pen, packaging to name a few, all can be used and converted effectively into solid bricks. Kevin claims that these plastic bricks are 88% stronger and 10 times less water absorbent than the conventional bricks. Not just that, the young engineer and his friends have taken a step further, deriving fuel from plastic waste, which would otherwise end up polluting the environment in one way or the other.
Kevin Jacob and the team have applied for a patent for the bricks and have sent the fuel for testing to Bharat Petroleum. Once the innovators get the initial mandatory go ahead, they plan to design a fully automated zero-pollution electric plant in which plastic waste can simply be converted into bricks and fuel. The vision is to set up this plant across the country – from villages to cities, gram panchayats, everywhere possible so that India can live a zero-plastic waste lifestyle.
Says Kevin Jacob, who also left his high paying job in Bengaluru to work on the solutions to deal with growing plastic menace,
I always wanted to work on an innovation that can change the fate of our society. We are always surrounded with plastic and I knew my country is facing the challenging task of fighting plastic waste. I thought of working on solutions back in 2015.
Highlights – Why Plastic Cannot Be Recycled
From 2015 to 2016, Kevin Jacob researched more on plastics to figure out a solution, he devoted few months to completely understand the world of plastic – the problem, why it cannot be recycled, why it’s becoming so much of a problem for our country. His findings highlighted that the real challenge why plastic is not recyclable to a great extent is because there are different grades to plastic waste – 1 to 7 which together is shredded into smaller pieces and mixed together and thrown out in the dump yards. Separating the shredded pieces of plastic waste into different categories for the purpose of recycling is next to impossible manually and using technology makes the whole process costlier. Thus every country, including India, is currently grappling with the problem of growing plastic waste.
To identify the type of plastic waste thrown in the dump yard or landfills and segregate it into different categories, a labour requires specialised skills obviously a skilled labour won’t be handpicking the waste from the dump yard – that’s why there is a loophole in the system, especially in India. There is a need for a technology that can automatically segregate plastic waste into different categories for the purpose of effective recycling, adds Kevin Jacob.
Kevin’s research underlined another important thing that mixing up all the plastic waste and using it for different purposes can be done effectively.
I was reading many articles that highlighted that plastic can be used as a construction material. And, bingo! That was my eureka moment and from then onwards together with my college friends I started experimenting with plastic waste, says Kevin.
2 Months, 10 People, One Home And 2 Innovations That Can Effectively Manage Plastic Waste In Future
Kevin, along with his friends who are also engineers from diverse fields started working together to experiment with plastic in order to find out sustainable, environment-friendly solution. Explaining the journey of innovation, Kevin added, “We used to do a lot of experiments with plastic, one day we decided to see what happens when we mix all the plastic waste together with few other local materials. The next day when we saw our experiment it was – hard solid brick-like structure.”
In early, 2017, the team cracked the technology of converting plastic waste into solid bricks. The first set of prototype bricks has been sent to Civil Engineering Department of Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) and the patent for the technology is awaited. These bricks have passed all the recommended tests of quality and strength and are more durable and water resistance than the conventional bricks.
Talking about the second innovation, Kevin says,
We never wanted to become brick manufacturers as that doesn’t solve our purpose – we wanted to find out a sustainable solution to growing plastic waste issues at a national level. Our second innovation is deriving fuel out of the plastic bricks – when you melt plastic, there is a generation of a lot of fumes – we use the fumes together and make fuel. We have sent the fuel for checking to Bharat Petroleum as well.
100 kilos of plastic waste can be used to make 50 bricks and 5 liters of fuel. Currently, these warriors have given birth to the innovations that can change the fate of plastic management in our country. Once the innovations prove their mettle, it will need better infrastructure support and funding for the products to be scaled higher and can be used for making footpaths, paving roads, and in the future, with some improvement, even houses.