The Future of Bioplastics in India

Shwetha Kamath recently posted an article in Ecoideaz giving an answer to the aforementioned question.

(http://www.ecoideaz.com/author/shwetha_kamath).

As in other emerging economies, plastic is an intrinsic part of the day to day life of Indian citizens as well as an unavaoidable part of the Federations’s logistics and economy. She reports about a recent survey showing that India is the third largest plastic consumer in the world, with a total consumption of plastics of about four million tons and a resulting waste production of about two million tons.

She writes:

“Enforcement of the ban on plastic bags is sometimes questionable, though we can see that cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Karwar, Tirumala, Vasco all have placed a ban on polythene bags. Recently, the use of polythene bags in Srinagar and other parts of the Kashmir Valley has been made a finable offense.

Plastic is an organic polymer that has both good and bad influences on our environment, which is why we need to seek a better alternative to it. About 1.27 billion people use and dispose plastics almost every day. The impact of this problem is so large on the environment that a mere “swing of the magic wand’ is not going change things. Fortunately, advanced technology and the increasing need for eco-friendly products, have introduced us to a sustainable remedy :Bio-Plastics”.

Bioplastics in India

Industrially Compostable Bioplastic products

“In India, Bioplastics are still in their nascent stage with very few market players operating in this segment. Currently, the Indian Bioplastics market is beset by challenges such as low awareness that are typical to emerging markets, especially the markets dealing with eco-friendly products, but there is a potential for companies wishing to enter this market.

Frost & Sullivan feels market participants can request tax exemptions and regulations that mandate the use of Bioplastics for certain applications. Apart from possible government backing and rising greater environmental awareness, Bioplastics manufacturers can benefit from the easy availability of abundant feedstock in India. This segment has a long way to go in terms of production, raw materials and technology. Environmental awareness and promoting the long-term benefits of bio-plastics is an initial step that needs to take toward bringing this change.

On a brighter note, Jammu & Kashmir is the first state in India to have built a dedicated bioplastic product manufacturing facility with an installed capacity of about 960 metric tons per year. The J&K Agro Industries Ltdhas started its joint venture with Earthsoul India to launch the country’s first integrated biopolymer facility that can manufacture 100% bio-degradable and compostable products. The facility manufactures flower pots and trays for floriculture, carry bags for shopping, packaging material for foodstuff and meats, bin liners for hotels, etc. Ravi Industries in Maharashtra, Harita NTI Ltd and Biotec Bags in Tamilnadu are also the pioneers in Bio-plastics in India.

Shwetha Kamath concludes: “apart from Bioplastics, there are other eco-friendly products which serve the same purpose, in the market. Almost all the shops today have replaced fancy plastic bags with jute, paper, cloth and wicker bags. For insulation, plastic can be replaced by cellulose, wood, paper, recycled plastic insulation. Bioplastics are bio-degradable material, derived from renewable and natural feedstock, that can be composted locally also contribute to healthier rural and urban economies. These advantages make it clear why Bioplastics need to be adopted seriously by Indians.  It’s up to every individual to bring a change “.

My only doubt here again is how these bioplastics would close their virtuous cycle and return to earth as compost if industrial composting or methanization units are not widely available “locally”. The development of a bioplastics based economy is only possible and complete if the end of life of those bioplastics is properly addressed by the deployment of the necessary waste treatment infrastructure. The chance of emerging economy is that they generally do not operate a heavy legacy infrastructure (e.g. an overcapacity network of incinerators in Germany, France , Italy etc) that is generally speaking an impairment of the deployment of industrial composting units.

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