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‘Like diamonds, plastics are forever'

Staff Correspondent
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MAKING A POINT: B.K. Sarojini, head of the Department of Chemistry, P.A. College of Engineering, making a presentation on ‘bio-plastics' in Mangalore on Tuesday. — PHOTO: R. Eswarraj
MAKING A POINT: B.K. Sarojini, head of the Department of Chemistry, P.A. College of Engineering, making a presentation on ‘bio-plastics' in Mangalore on Tuesday. — PHOTO: R. Eswarraj

A professor of chemistry said here on Tuesday that “plastics are forever” just like diamonds as they are not bio-degradable. A better substitute for synthetic plastic would be bio-plastic which are commercially available in Europe, she said.

Head of the Department of Chemistry at P.A. College of Engineering B.K. Sarojini was delivering a lecture on bio-plastics, organised by the Institution of Engineers. She said that plastics had a life of 1,000 years. They kill around 1,00,000 animals annually.

She said that bio-plastics were degradable provided the conditions were right. Bio-plastic could be made from poly lactic acid. The raw material would be any agricultural waste or by-product, or any kind of biomass. Petro-based additives could be used to boost the strength of the plastic.

Ms. Sarojini said that manufacture of bio-plastic would cause less pollution as it was a plant-based product unlike synthetic plastic, for which oil is the raw material. However, despite its advantage of being bio-degradable, the material was not entirely unproblematic. Firstly, it needs to be processed before it can be broken down by bacteria. Secondly, it would not solve the problem of landfill-dumping. Instead, it could even increase the use of plastic as people would assume that it was eco-friendly.

The professor said that the idea was not actually new, Henry Ford, the carmaker had used a soy composite bumper as far back as 1941. Bio-plastic can be used in the textile industry, medical uses, for packaging and auto parts. Its drawbacks include poor temperature resistance, she added.

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