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Indian Railways to Make Bricks from Waste Soil & Buy Back Plastic Bottles Soon!

For the Railways, sustainability is priority and they ensure the same in every project they undertake.

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Always under scrutiny and immense pressure to perform-the Indian Railways also watches out to make sure its carbon footprint is as minimal as can be. In the process, they even manage to pull off cost savings and reduce the impact on the environment.

Whether it is the Guwahati station that runs entirely on solar power or the solar-powered locomotive, solar energy is being used effectively by the Railways.

Other green initiatives by the Railways include the introduction of plates made of fibre, instead of plastic, and the implementation of bio-toilets in trains.

In this latest initiative, the Railways has decided to convert waste soil into traditional bricks, to be used in its construction project of the 111 km line to provide Imphal rail connectivity, scheduled for completion by 2020. The track is to have 47 tunnels, covering a distance of 63.2 km, and 131 bridges.

The Railways has decided to convert waste soil into bricks. Representative image only. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
The Railways has decided to convert waste soil into bricks. Representative image only. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Usually, the Railways buys traditional bricks from factories and transports them to the site which turns out to be a costly affair. Experiments conducted by NIT Silchar in their lab led to a successful formula–the conversion of unused soil into bricks.

A Saibaba, Chief Engineer, Construction, Northeast Frontier Railway,in charge of the Jiribam-Imphal line, shares that the college carried out numerous studies. They found that the mixture of the local soil, with small quantities of cement and other locally available ingredients, yields strong, durable bricks, when subject to high pressure.

The national transporter wants to curb pollution and cut costs. The above process allows them to produce around 3,500 bricks every eight hours. The blocks are then used for various construction and maintenance works of the Railways, like pitching of slopes, building embankment staircases and drain-linings.

Saibaba sees this as a multi-purpose solution. This is why. Construction of the railway lines, through hilly terrain, ends up dislodging and excavating a lot of soil that can’t be dumped in streams and rivers as many villagers depend on the water bodies. Making bricks out of it solves the issue of excess soil and potential water pollution.

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With regards to plastic, the Central Railways has decided to try and implement a buy-back policy for plastic bottles, as well as install plastic bottle crushing machines at some stations. This comes close to the heels of Maharashtra which set to implement a state-wide plastic ban.

The Railways wants to implement a proper system to ensure buybacks of plastic bottles. Representative image only. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Railways wants to implement a proper system to ensure buybacks of plastic bottles. Representative image only. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

An issue the Railways faces is of plastic entering Maharashtra from other states. So, the Maharashtra State Government has proposed the printing of buyback prices on plastic bottles. According to a senior Railway official mentioned in The Hindu, only approved manufacturers of the Railways, shall be privy to buyback prices printed on bottles. Once the state decides on its policy, details will be finalised, he rounded off.

Officials of Indian Railways will be meeting with plastic bottle manufacturers next week.

The Railways has also thought of a counter-move to address the
storage of returned bottles. A mechanism of collecting old bottles will avoid the pile-up of plastic bottles.


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The IRCTC aims to frame a holistic buyback plan, for the water-vending machines that dispense water in plastic cups and bottles. According to the IRCTC West Region Spokesperson, Pinakin Morawala, the Railways is brainstorming how to follow the law of the land, and try and replace plastic with eco-friendly options.

These initiatives of the railways coming close to their other recent green measures prove their commitment to sustainability!

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

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