Prashant Lingam is showing how treated plastic, which is waterproof, fireproof and termite-proof, can be used to build houses.

This Hyd entrepreneur is making houses bathrooms and more using treated plastic
news Environment Tuesday, October 02, 2018 - 15:00

In 2013, Prashant Lingam, owner of Bamboo House India, constructed a house in Uppal using plastic bottles, as a possible solution to India’s plastic problem. For someone who had mastered the trade of building and crafting utilities out of bamboo, plastic proved to be a different ball game. However, before long, Prashant realised that it was not practical to use plastic in its untreated form. He swiftly got a team on to research on the subject. Today, Prashant has built numerous houses across the country and even laid paver tiles in Hyderabad’s popular Dog Park, not out of cement and mortar but from tonnes of plastic waste and polybags.

Prashant Lingam started Bamboo House India more than a decade ago and has established himself as an entrepreneur, innovating sustainable forms of housing. In 2013, Prashant, who identifies himself as the ‘chief labourer’ at his company, began brainstorming for possible ways in which plastic waste can be reused.

“After I built my first house in Uppal out of plastic bottles, I realised plastic in its natural form, couldn’t be put to much use. I did my research and understood that reusing plastic required huge capital investment, for which I was not prepared at the time. Since it was practically not viable to segregate plastic waste from the landfills, I sought help from companies across India to collect plastic, shred, compress and make sheets out of it,” Prashant says.

Reusing treated plastic

Prashant’s plastic houses have busted several myths about the reuse of plastic. The entrepreneur says that houses made from plastic neither increase temperature nor is less durable than houses made of brick and cement.

“Treated plastic is completely waterproof, fireproof and termite-proof. Its chemical composition changes and can withstand any temperature variation. A single house may require up to 25,000 kg of plastic to finish construction. The plastic boards are erected on metal frames, so the strength and durability of the structure is also well-guaranteed.”

Prashant has joined hands with the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and developed ideas under many of the latter’s flagship projects.

“Earlier this year, we built an office for a park at Kukatpally, which is half plastic and half bamboo. We even managed to get plastic flooring for the structure. Later, in Miyapur, we built a house for the Metro staff at the parking counter, where the entire structure is made of plastic, except the flooring. Though our ideas are catching up with a few in the town, many are still sceptical about the longevity of such houses,” Prashant says.

The cost-factor

While the durability of plastic houses is still debatable, higher prices are definitely a deterrent, Prashant opines. “There are a very few people who are ready to take an extra mile for the cause of sustainability. Compared to brick and mortar houses, plastic houses are two times costlier and also the profit margins are less. So naturally, even contractors would discourage the use of plastic boards as there is a high investment but lesser returns.”

While most of Prashant’s projects are in the South, a major part of segregation and manufacture happens in companies around North India, especially in Gujarat and Daman.

From houses, Prashant expanded his business to other infrastructure, including the recently-opened Dog Park in Hyderabad, where an entire pathway, shaped into a dog bone, has been laid with plastic.

“Each tile was made with more than 600 polybags, plastic waste and some amount of plastic bottles as well. A single tile weighs around 300 gram and can withstand a force of 20 tonnes. The entire pathway, spread over an area of 3,100 sq ft, consumed over 24 lakh kg of plastic. But the matter of fact remains that while cemented tiling may cost Rs 80 per foot, plastic flooring sees a straight jump to Rs 100, and even a contractor can hardly make a profit of 10-20% from the project,” Prashant elucidates.

So could one really blame consumers for not adopting a more sustainable form of housing? “Not really,” says Prashant.

Any effort towards sustainability is bound to pinch one’s pockets. And the very few who can actually afford would prefer things that are more pompous and fancy, he adds.

While Prashant says that using plastic for housing could be one of the most potential solutions to India’s growing plastic menace, he points out that government backing is also equally important for the concept to gain momentum. He credits Hari Chandana Dasari, GHMC West Zone Commissioner, who gave Prashant the opportunity to experiment with plastic infrastructure with the first house project in Kukatpally and later with the idea of plastic paver tiles in the Dog Park.

“Government has always had a traditional way of approaching things. They like to use resources that have been tried and tested. But as times are changing, we must be ready to experiment. We have already built three houses out of plastic in the city, which till date, remains in a good form. After we laid the plastic paver tiles at the Dog Park, many have approached me, asking how they can do something similar in their houses too. The change must begin with us so that the public is not sceptical about adopting better sustainable ways of living,” Hari Chandana tells TNM.

As for Prashant, he now aims to build washrooms, furniture and office spaces out of plastic, which would not require more plastic waste and would also let people experiment.

“Segregation must begin at home. We must develop better business acumen and establish units here that can treat plastic waste. Once the production cost comes down, I am sure more people would embrace means of housing that are more sustainable and in sync with nature,” Prashant adds.

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