In a country where rising pollution levels remain a serious areas of concern, the innovation comes as a major shot in the arm for solid waste management.
The biodegradable plastic has been developed by IIT-G’s Centre of Excellence-Sustainable Polymers (CoE-SusPol), which is funded by the department of chemicals and petrochemicals under Union ministry of chemicals and fertilizers. The centre has already developed kitchen cutlery, household furniture and decorative items including flower pots and toys using this non-biodegradable plastic variant.
“Ours is the only centre in India which is carrying out research on biodegradable plastic. Though the US has been a major producer of biodegradable plastic, the production costs there are very high. But our team has managed to achieve this with lower costs by using homegrown technology. This is cutting-edge innovation and a remarkable achievement,” CoE-SusPol coordinator and principal investigator of the project, Vimal Katiyar, told TOI on Saturday. He added that the biodegradable plastic, which has passed the hot-beverage test, is unique because it has no hazardous chemicals.
“The non-biodegradable plastic products, which are commonly used in households, cannot be recycled for 400 years. Products like plastic carry bags, if disposed unscientifically, are hard to decompose and are a massive threat to soil cultivation,” Katiyar said.
As environmentalists battle to solve the problem of plastic pollution, the biggest challenge before scientists today is to come up with biodegrable plastic products. Katiyar pointed out that the IIT-G project is a major step in the direction, as their plastic variant is non-polluting and will help increase soil fertility. “The biodegradable plastic that we have developed can perfectly replace the non-biodegradable variant. Our biodegradable plastic does not come from petroleum, but bio-base, which is safe and environment-friendly. When products made out of the biodegradable plastic variant will be thrown in the garbage dump, they will degrade automatically and get absorbed in the soil. This plastic will help increase soil fertility,” he said.
The project has now found support in a Gujarat-based private company which has offered help to IIT-G to begin commercial production. Till now, the IIT-G centre has been producing 7-8 kg of biodegradable plastic at one go. But Katiyar said that a pilot project, with a 100 tonnes per year capacity design, will go on till September this year. Successful completion of the pilot project will pave the way for commercial production, he added.