On The Other Hand, Good Things ARE Happening

The news, and my comments on that news, have been pretty bleak of late, so I thought I would look for evidence that good things are also happening in the world. (Probably even in the U.S.)

And I found some things!

I particularly looked for technological breakthroughs that might mitigate climate change or otherwise represent environmental progress, and this one struck me as especially promising, not least because I’ve been driving in “pothole city”–aka Indianapolis.

Jambulingam Street, Chennai, is a local legend. The tar road in the bustling Nungambakkam area has weathered a major flood, several monsoons, recurring heat waves and a steady stream of cars, trucks and auto rickshaws without showing the usual signs of wear and tear. Built in 2002, it has not developed the mosaic of cracks, potholes or craters that typically make their appearance after it rains. Holding the road together is an unremarkable material: a cheap, polymer glue made from shredded waste plastic.

Jambulingam Street was one of India’s first plastic roads . The environmentally conscious approach to road construction was developed in India around 15 years ago in response to the growing problem of plastic litter. As time wore on, polymer roads proved to be surprisingly durable, winning support among scientists and policymakers in India as well as neighboring countries like Bhutan. “The plastic tar roads have not developed any potholes, rutting, raveling or edge flaw, even though these roads are more than four years of age,” observed an early performance reportby India’s Central Pollution Control Board. Today, there are more than 21,000 miles of plastic road in India, and roughly half are in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Most are rural roads, but a small number have also been built in cities such as Chennai and Mumbai.

According to this and other articles, so-called “modified” asphalts, consisting of virgin polymers (and sometimes ground-up old tires), have been used here in the U.S., and have been found to perform well: Illinois has used them to build high-traffic roads used by lots of trucks, and Washington State uses them for noise reduction. They tend not to buckle in extreme heat the way conventional roads do.

But the modified asphalts being used here are pretty costly–they can increase the cost of a road anywhere from 30-50%. The paving being used in India costs less than conventional roads.

While polymer roads in the US are made with asphalt that comes pre-mixed with a polymer, plastic tar roads are a frugal invention, made with a discarded, low-grade polymer. Every kilometer of this kind of road uses the equivalent of 1m plastic bags, saving around one tonne of asphalt and costing roughly 8% less than a conventional road….

In India, plastic roads serve as a ready-made landfill for a certain kind of ubiquitous urban trash. Flimsy, single-use items like shopping bags and foam packaging are the ideal raw material. Impossible to recycle, they are a menace, hogging space in garbage dumps, clogging city drains and even poisoning the air.

That same plastic trash has become a huge hazard in the oceans.killing marine life and littering previously pristine beaches. In the middle of the Atlantic, there is an area that spans the distance between Virginia to Cuba called the Great Atlantic Garbage Patch: it has  up to 26 million plastic particles per square kilometer.

Turning plastic trash into cheaper, longer-lasting roads–now that should make us smile! (At least until civil engineers and construction special interests block adoption of the technology here….)


  1. “(At least until civil engineers and construction special interests block adoption of the technology here….)”
    My thoughts as I was reading this – if it’s good for the environment, if it’s ‘progressive’, then someone is going to lose money and those in power will block it.
    I guess I can’t be cheered just yet.

  2. You’re speaking out of turn…this is truck country! Everybody needs a truck…you’re not a MAN unless you own a truck. Gas-sucking trucks are the manliest of man things.

    Well, you get the idea.

    The dire warnings about climate change coming from international organizations are ignored every single time. Our children and grandchildren are going to be pissed when they discover we had a chance to correct it and failed to do so.

    All the different variations of environmental catastrophes will be associated with the greatest failings of the Boomer Generation. Profits over the people and the planet will be their legacy.

    Last year Koch Energy spent an enormous amount of money pushing their propaganda during college football season. A whole season devoted to the greatness of Koch Energy.

    This year?

    ExxonMobil takes the stage. “Energy Leaders”. LOL

    Why all the propaganda aimed at young people, fellas?

    Poor Nikki Haley…she kept trying to preach capitalism and all its failings to the international community who suffers the consequences of capitalism and it fell on deaf ears. Over the weekend, you’d think she was the greatest ambassador we’ve ever had.

    Where was the list of failures under the Trump regime?

    We’ve become champions of propaganda which I believe goes hand in hand with free market capitalism.

  3. Glad Sheila found something good in today’s news; even if it is only a possibility of happening on a large scale in this wasteful country. Until my neighbor let me begin using his recycle bin; I had no idea how many plastic items we all use and thoughtlessly toss into the trash throughout our days. The same is true with paper and cardboard, cans and bottles, which can be recycled. I now feel guilty if I use some plastic bags to wrap garbage rather than recycle. Decades ago we learned to live with required cleaning products that are biodegradable…not harmful to our environment. We could learn new ways to follow India’s example. This old dog learned that new trick.

    I keep two plastic grocery bags hanging above my recyclable items in the garage; one bag holds the many small plastic bags which contained many foods, when it is full I knot the bag to recycle. The 2nd hanging bag contains more plastic grocery bags to fill with smaller bags. I have cloth grocery bags; have explained that it takes oil to produce all plastics and plastics are not biodegradable, thus harmful to the environment…and in our oceans are harmful to living creatures. Then I notice the long unrolling of the paper receipt and inwardly moan, “OMG, the trees, the trees!” By the way; recycle companies are dealing with a lack of newspapers to recycle due to electronic media used by millions. One benefit of continuing to subscribe to the Indianapolis Star.

    The ground tires were being used in Florida on a few playgrounds to protect children from injuries; it was also being sold in bags to use as mulch around flowerbeds, shrubs and trees. Oil is also used in the manufacture of tires, which are not biodegradable; has any one else noticed how much smaller tires are on newer vehicles? Someone is aware of the environmental facts as well as cost regarding tire manufacture. Of course; the cost of oil causes our gas prices to go up. Still and all; I would support seeking the use of the polymer based asphalt on our streets and roads; ultimately cost-cutting for cities to maintain our infrastructure and for vehicle owners, fewer car repairs due to road conditions would benefit all of us.

    My views on recycling is carried over to my deep concerns about the thousands of abandoned houses and buildings which should also be recycled by repair, renovation and reuse. But I have been waiting for more than 30 years for one local law to change to begin that form of recycling.


  4. The idea of long-lasting, innovative road construction in Indiana is crazy talk. How can INDOT maintain campaign donation goals if the roads don’t need to rebuilt every 4 or 5 years? What will happen to our wheel taxes and gasoline taxes – a reduction or a refund?

  5. Do Mayor Hogsett and Governor Holcomb subscribe to “Jaundiced Look”? Does Zach Adamson, Monroe Gray, Vop Osili, Brian Bosma, and the rest of our esteemed elected officials? How many trucks does Mike Braun own? So many questions, so little time. MAGA vs Making India’s Roads Great. Don’t forget Ireland will be FFF, fossil fuel free soon, while DT wants more drilling.

  6. We have technology and industry working to better matters and a government that has made a sharp turn to ignorance. So who is going to slap the ’emperor’ and tell him he is naked and blind and ignorant? – to tell you the truth even if they did – it wouldn’t help. The war the American people are fighting – the real war; is a war against ignorance. But right now – ignorance is winning.

  7. There are a lot of individual efforts going on to clean our oceans. It would be nice if the UN would get behind them and get its member countries to support these efforts. I assume the US would not participate in any of these endeavors under the current regime, but the world can carry on without us.


  8. If we could just capture the methane of the BS coming out of the White House, we’d be energy independent for at least 2 generations. It is bad enough when an administration pauses on a policy such as the improvement of the environment. To reverse actions, such as Trump’s has done, shows the uber right’s importance of profits over the well-being of our health and the health of generations to come. History will not be kind to our Narcissist in Chief.

  9. Great news!

    However, my first thought was that the asphalt companies here who make out like bank robbers would fight this as hard as they can. They will NOT want to be forced to spend massive amounts of money to purchase new equipment. And, we all know that our state legislators can be bought.

    In Indiana even our rural highways are in terrible condition. The state is required to accept the lowest bid for road repair. Supposedly, they must meet certain standards for the materials used. However, either the state chose many years ago to lower those material standards or they look the other way when it comes to awarding bids, knowing that the materials will not really meet the standards.

  10. Yes, everything is now wrapped in plastic. Wax paper and glass wrappings are hard to find. Why? Oil companies make more money this way. It’s always been about oil. The United States uses 500,000 barrels of oil for shopping bags per year.

    There is a company in New Zealand that polices up plastic trash in the oceans. It uses it to form building blocks. They compress the trash into cinderblock-sized items that nest together. Using glue instead of mortar, and voila! You have a wall that is stronger than cinderblock, better insulated and just as easily painted.

    But no. Doing that would infringe on who knows how many other businesses. Our capitalists simply will NOT innovate while oil remains “cheap” and easy. The environment? Who cares. It’s all about the profits. Trash overload? Who cares. The quarterly report has got to make the stockholders squirm with joy.

    Marx had it right about capitalism, and we’re seeing his prophecies coming true every day. Nice try, Sheila, but these single examples of progress are but a belch in the wind.

  11. The guiding principal here in the USA is “corporations uber alles”. Profit was, is and always will be the guiding light of Korporate AmeriKa and the bought and paid for elected politicians.

    I remember traveling to Rome and wondering about the ruins of a once mighty Empire. How had this happened? Historians have speculated and put forth their various ideas of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.
    Horace Smith’s “Ozymandias”

    In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
    Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
    The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
    “I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
    “The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
    “The wonders of my hand.”— The City’s gone,—
    Naught but the Leg remaining to disclose
    The site of this forgotten Babylon.

    We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
    Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
    Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
    He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
    What powerful but unrecorded race
    Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

    As a Boomer, I can recall those long ago days, when our leadership and the American people made a commitment to Science and Education. We watched in awe as our astronauts were launched into space a culmination of peaceful science, technology and a spirit of cooperation.

    Those days are gone, gone, gone. We look around us and witness the craven greed by the 1%. Our major cities are in decline and as Horace Smith wrote:

    What powerful but unrecorded race
    Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

  12. I haul the road oil/asphault for the plants that make the final product,pavement.. its has diffrent numbers, 58/28, most used,58s/34 has poly,64/34 has the most used in heavy traffic, its plastic based,amd firms up the surface,some roads are layered, with 58/28 on the first pass,and then 64/34 on top. depending on the states possition on yes boys in civil engineering,that will make the approvals happen,as the state,county govs decide the use. seems if your in a so called tax cut it all state, dont expect much. but in hot weather states,its mandated. the sublayers of gravel,and whatever the civils decide,also make for the costs. when your state is continually redoing a road,it maybe the sub layers are falling apart,and the whole roadbed needs to be redone. if we see some new products inbedded in this mix,ask of its a recycled material product(state civil engineers),and who,makes it? seems corp america decides as they see fit,(profit over need) so, if incline,ask,and start a move into getting such issues up front. seems those walmart bags would have a good place for them..buried under my semi as i drive..

  13. The news about India’s roads is welcome. I am always both encouraged when I hear of a successful effort to improve the ecology and (usually) also saddened to find it isn’t happening in this country.

    Still, I look forward to a day when fossil fuel, and the fossils in congress who support it aren’t driving the ecology, economy and the earth into ruin.

    While I agree with Vernon that this news is not earth-shaking, it is earth-preserving and I am happy to hear of it. Thanks Sheila.

  14. “In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
    Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
    The only shadow that the Desert knows:—”

    Monotonous; those words brought to my mind the last scene in the original movie, “Planet Of The Apes”, when Charleton Heston found the remains of the Statue of Liberty at the edge of the ocean. Is this where we are headed? Or maybe; Charleton Heston again in “Soylent Green”? He went from Moses to becoming the poster boy for the NRA; but like Reagan, we don’t know when symptoms of Alzheimer’s began for either of them. Destruction of this country has begun; will enough be left to cast a shadow or will some way in the future generation uncover our remains buried under plastic bottle and Walmart bags?


  15. In the article about the street in Chennai all types of conditions are mentioned except freezing weather. 🙂

  16. There is so much that can and should be done so the country can have an affordable future but Trump and co are preventing all of it.

  17. as we are getting closer to midterm elects,bidden and sanders are finally taking the gloves off.
    bout time,name the names,and the games,dont stop till we take back America.vote,,,

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