A team of researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT-G) have developed pharmaceutical and food products from tea factory wastes.
Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages on the globe with the world tea consumption expected to rise to 7.4 million tonnes from the current 6.3 million tonnes by 2025.
The increase in tea consumption leads to an increase in the generation of tea waste, leading to non-utilisation of valuable agricultural resources.
The team led by Mihir Kumar Purkait of IITG’s Department of Chemical Engineering undertook a project to efficiently utilise the high lignin and low inorganic content in tea industry wastes. The outcome was a range of products for use in the pharmaceutical and food processing industries.
The range of innovative value-added products developed in their laboratory at IIT Guwahati includes low-cost antioxidant-rich supplements designed to provide an affordable healthier lifestyle option by harnessing green tea’s potential properties, and organic preservatives for extending the shelf life of vegetable and fruit juices for up to one year, ensuring long-lasting freshness.
Among the other products are biochar for waste reduction and environmental restoration including carbon sequestration, micro and nano-crystalline cellulose tailored for intelligent packaging, and carbon quantum dots currently being explored for detecting harmful contaminants in water bodies.
The research team comprising Somnath Chanda, Prangan Duarah, and Banhisikha Debnath apart from Prof Purkait has filed multiple patents on the basis of these developments.
The findings of these studies have been published in various international journals including the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, Chemosphere, and Critical Reviews in Biotechnology.
“The convenience and health benefits of catechin-based capsules open a promising avenue, offering users access to the advantages of catechins without the necessity of multiple cups of green tea. This caters to the increasing demand for antioxidant-rich supplements in our daily routines,” Professor Purkait said.
The products from tea factory waste can have a wide range of applications that include food-grade activated carbon as an alternative to synthetic food colourant and natural-based mild abrasive material in toiletries such as toothpaste and body washes, he said.