Bio-plastics catching up

Updated - September 30, 2016 01:12 am IST

Published - March 13, 2011 02:21 am IST - CHENNAI:

CHENNAI : 21/02/2011 : Bio Degradable materials on display at a Manufacturing unit at Ambattur Industrail Estate. Photo: K_Pichumani

CHENNAI : 21/02/2011 : Bio Degradable materials on display at a Manufacturing unit at Ambattur Industrail Estate. Photo: K_Pichumani

With increasing awareness of problems created by misuse of plastic bags, the concept of bio-plastics as an alternative is catching up in the city. A few companies are preparing to launch biodegradable plastic items in the retail markets shortly.

In these days when safe disposal of plastic waste poses a major challenge to local bodies, manufacturers of bio-plastics say that their products would be completely degradable. The materials currently used for bio-plastics are polylactic acids and starch-based polymers. S.Balakrishnan, assistant general manager, Harita NTI Ltd., a company that manufactures bio-based products, said that though the source used mainly is corn, some other sources include tapioca, sugarcane and wood pulp. The products would completely degrade in three or four months in the process of vermi-composting.

At present, bio-plastics are being used in the hospitality sector. These cannot replace plastics as their shelf life is low, he said. In a bid to increase awareness of bio-plastics, Harita NTI Ltd is coming up with a quick test to differentiate biodegradable plastics, he added.

According to T.S.Shankker, Director of Biotec Bags, a company manufacturing biodegradable carry bags and garbage bags, the cost of such items could be brought down by adopting indigenous technology. “We are planning to launch our bags in retail market soon on an experimental basis,” he said.

Many plastic manufacturers said some of the disadvantages of bio-degradable plastics are that they would degrade in a stipulated time only under controlled environment. Experts said there are other plastic items where bio-based feedstock is mixed with conventional plastic. Though they are labelled as biodegradable, they would remain in soil as powdered film.

K.Palanivelu, Deputy Director and Head of Central Institute of Plastics Engineering and Technology, Chennai, said the products from starch-based polymers are still not popular.

Bio-plastics would get more patronage in the retail market when they become as affordable as conventional plastics. The cost of biodegradable plastics would be nearly five times higher owing to expensive processes.

CIPET is carrying out research on biodegradable plastics and has testing facilities to evaluate them, he added.

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