Enviornmentalists believe in green plastic usage

A new generation of biodegradable plastic is the answer to the rampant plastic pollution and its irreversible ill effects that continue to affect the ecosystem, suggest environmentalists.

Environmentalists say the durability of plastics that was once considered as a boon has now turned it into a bane.

“Today, there are serious concerns about plastics clogging drains, choking animals, affecting marine life, and reducing soil fertility. Over a billion tonnes of plastic have been discarded and it may take hundreds or even thousands of years to get rid of the product,” said an official of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

Plastic is often manufactured from petroleum, a depleting resource, and the process releases large quantities of chemical pollutants.

A recent TERI research done in Delhi focused on preparing bioplastic by altering the chemical composition of biopolymers in commonly used thermoplastics by increasing it from 20 per cent to 60 per cent. The use of modified biopolymeric materials resulted in better mechanical strength.

“This implies that biodegradable plastic can help in reducing pollution and the harmful effects. But I have not seen a single company in Delhi that manufactures this kind of plastic. The US has several companies doing so. There are apprehensions but we need to begin somewhere,” said Dr Shyamala Mani, heading the waste management department in Centre for Environment Education (CEE).

There are many kinds of bioplastics. These include microbial plastics like PHAs (polyhydroxyalkanoate) used in packaging as a substitute for polyethylene.

But they are expensive. Another kind of bioplastic can be created by blending the commonly used synthetic thermoplastics with inexpensive biopolymers.

Among the various biopolymers used in the process are starch, cellulose, chitosan and rubber wood. 

On a positive note, amid the mounting environmental concerns, biodegradable or environment-friendly plastic has gained prominence in the last two decades across the globe. These bioplastics are easy to dispose and can be soil-composted.

The market for bioplastic currently stands at 10 to 15 per cent of the total plastic market in the world and its market share is likely to increase by 25 to 30 per cent by 2020.Experts are hopeful that Indian companies will enter and invest in this market.

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