Polyurethane can go a long way in ending plastic menace, says AMCA representative

‘It is degradable in nature, either by living organisms or by chemical weathering, through contact with the soil or water, or both under natural condition’

June 28, 2022 12:08 am | Updated 12:08 am IST - VISAKHAPATNAM

The use of plastics has permeated almost all areas of our daily life, for the past several decades. The convenience of carrying articles of daily use in the plastic carry bag, which fits in one’s pocket and the low price, have made plastic carry bags ubiquitous.

The inventors of plastic had received the Nobel Prize for their invention after World War II. But, now the world has realised that the earth can no longer take the load of plastics, as they do not decay and remain for thousands of years. Single-use plastics have been banned but it is very difficult for consumers to totally kick their habit, of using plastic carry bags, overnight.

Replacing synthetic plastic with degradable polyurethane will go a long way in ending the plastic menace, opines Sudhansu Shekhar Padhy, an Associate Director of Environment Technology Development at the Asian Marine Conservation Association (AMCA), Kolkata, and Director – Technical of Swagath Urethane Pvt. Ltd., Hyderabad.

Mr. Sudhansu, a technocrat, was inspired by Anupam Ghosh, founder and Chief Scientist of AMCA, to take up R & D, based on scientific partnership with AMCA.

They were in the city recently as part of a seminar, organised by AMCA in association with Andhra University, on ‘Role of industries in checking marine and coastal pollution.’

“Polyurethane is degradable in nature, either by living organisms or by chemical weathering, through contact with the soil or water, or both under natural conditions. There are two main types of biodegradation of plastic – oxy-biodegradable and hydro-biodegradable. In both cases, degradation begins with a chemical process, i.e., oxidation and hydrolysis respectively,” says Mr. Shekhar.

“They emit carbon dioxide in both types as they gradually degrade, though, hydro-degradable polyurethane can also emit methane, in some cases. Plastic made from corn is biodegradable, carbon neutral, renewable and even edible. The long chains of carbon molecules in corn starch are remarkably similar to the chains of carbon in oil-based plastic and thus can be thought of as plastic. The pellets of corn polymer can be melted down and formed into any shape and size of biodegradable plastic,” he says.

The corn plastic takes between six months and one year to be fully degraded in nature, more specifically in soil. Swagath Urethane is in the process of developing plastics that are capable of being degraded in the natural environment with various plant-based biodegradable materials to be used for marine pollution monitoring and reduction of the same.

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