On December 1, 2017, China passed a policy banning the import of plastics from several foreign countries, including the US. For over a year now, this policy has been in effect and the plastic has been piling up, with much of it actually being redirected to other developing countries. In other words, the problem of plastic waste and what to do with it is not new—it’s just shifting to other parts of the world. But it’s also forcing Americans to face what’s becoming an increasingly pressing question: how do we go about handling the millions of pounds of plastic waste we’re producing each year?
Sahadat Hossain, Ph.D., P.E., is a professor at the University of Texas Arlington Department of Civil Engineering who is working on a solution that utilizes a characteristic of plastic which makes it particularly problematic in landfills: non-degradability. Since plastic does not degrade, it takes up a significant amount of space in landfills and prevents other materials from degrading, which just worsens the problem. However, the non-degradability of plastic makes it a particularly useful material in civil engineering pursuits, and this is the focus of Dr. Hossain’s work.
His work in this realm began with an investigation into the use of plastic waste for slope-stabilizing pins, which led to a well-funded project in 2013 that proved immensely successful. With one pin containing about 500 plastic bottles, and 600 pins used in just one project, Dr. Hossain and his team recycled about 300,000 plastic bottles. Now, imagine how much plastic waste could be recycled if a similar technique was used in the construction of roadways. This is exactly what Dr. Hossain is focusing his research efforts on now, and he joins the podcast to discuss all the details of what this would entail the challenges that must be overcome and the current, ongoing application of this technique in India.
Interested in learning more? Tune in and visit http://www.uta.edu/faculty/hossain/Home.html.