Professor Shantanu Bhowmick, whose invention replaced the 18kg imported bullet- proof jackets used by defence personnel with 1.5 kg multi-layer plastic (carbon fibre) vest and saved defence ministry Rs 20,000 crore annually, has been meeting young entrepreneurs in Kolkata to encourage them to create wealth from plastic waste.
His latest research aimed at making cities and villages free of plastic and thermocol waste.
He has produced cotton fibre from thermocol, another all pervasive menace, which is choking drains, canals and polluting rivers. The thermocol cotton can be used for pillows, cushions and various other purposes.
“While people throw away plastic packets and containers, they refrain from throwing broken pieces of metal. It is only because of the resale value. But the product we can manufacture with discarded plastic can make good business. So, entrepreneurs must buy plastic waste, like they buy metal waste. This is the only way to save the planet from plastic waste,” said Bhowmick on the sidelines of a seminar held at South Asian Institute of Advance Research and Development, where he spoke on waste to wealth.
Bhowmick, head of the aerospace engineering at Coimbatore-based Amrita University, has developed fibre boats (both mechanised and manual) and prefabricated paver blocks, which are light, fireproof and five times more durable than conventional concrete blocks. All of these are climate-friendly building materials. “Such buildings will be naturally cooler in summer and warmer in winter,” he added.
“My target is the indigenous boat industry at Balagarh. For one boat, at least two full-grown trees are cut. Just imagine, a tree requires nearly 50 years to grow. Naturally, each boat is more expensive compared to a plastic boat made from waste, which could have been built in a day. A plastic boat would also be energy efficient with much better buoyancy because of the designed shape, which plastic can assume easily,” he added.
Bhowmick has planned to replace wooden boats of the Sundarbans with fibre ones. “The way people are discarding plastic items in Sundarbans, it poses a great threat to aquatic biodiversity,” he added.
“The way we are generating plastic waste, the city will be badly affected during a flood. Because of the choked drains, water will take more time to recede. The sea-level is rising and Bengal is particularly vulnerable. We have very little time act,” said the professor.