RIL is in talks with state governments and local bodies across the country for offering the technology.

After building a road with bitumen mixed with shredded end-of-life plastic in Maharashtra, Reliance Industries plans to commercially launch the plastic mix for road builders.

The company is advising National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to include plastic mix in its specifications for road projects and will assist road builders in adapting to this technology which will utilise plastic waste to build stronger roads, said Vipul Shah, chief operating officer of petrochemical division at RIL.

“We just completed phase one which looked at finding and end-to-end solution for this. We also realised that the plastic to be used for road construction has to be a certain quality and size. We felt there was a need to launch a brand that would be guaranteed by Reliance for its quality,” Shah said.

“This can be a game-changing project both for our environment and our roads.”

India produces plastic waste of over 25,940 tonnes every day. Waste management is one of the biggest challenges for the country. RIL is already processing 200 crore used PET bottles every year and has plans to double it in the next 15-18 months. The company launched an umbrella brand R|Elan for eco-friendly fibre made from used plastic, using green manufacturing technologies.

Typically, 8-10% of plastic is mixed in the regular bitumen mix for road construction, which makes the road stronger and water resistant. Mixing the plastic can also result in savings of up to Rs 1,00,000 for every one km of road, 3.5 metres wide, as compared with a pure bitumen road, RIL said. While the government has been talking about adapting to this technology, it is yet to be included in tender specifications.

“These are early days but we will get to the scale that is needed. The advantage of someone like us getting into it is that our pan India reach, in every state and municipality, is so high that we can get the right legislation installed in a proper way so that not just reliance but multiple companies that take on this project,” Shah said.

The company did not share any details of the capacity, potential revenue and investments related to this business.

“We have not yet worked out the financial of this project but in the long term any projects on sustainability and circular economy have to be financially viable,” Shah said.
RIL, as a part of its sustainability and circularity initiatives, has built 40-kilometer roads by using 50 tonnes post-consumer plastics as a key ingredient at its Nagothane Manufacturing Division.

The plastics used in the construction includes end-of-life post-consumer plastics, such as multi-layer films used for packaging of wafers, snacks, flimsy polyethylene plastic bags, flexible polyethylene packaging materials used by e-commerce companies, garbage bags, cling wraps and other flexible plastic products.