New discovery on biodegradable plastics that can disappear will help India on plastic waste management


Scientists new discovery on biodegradable plastics that can disappear will help India on plastic waste management

New discovery by a team of scientists on how biodegradable plastics can be disappeared will help India on plastic waste management. According to a survey, India produces 9.46 million tonnes of plastic waste per year, of which 40% is left uncollected and 43% is used for packaging, the majority of which is single-use. Un-Plastic Collective (UPC), a voluntary multi-stakeholder project to eradicate plastic waste in nature and drive toward a circular economy, undertook the research.

A new research on biodegradable plastic can help reduce India’s plastic which can also decrease the plastic pollution.

Biodegradable plastics disappear

Image: Canva

A research team from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) of the US Department of Energy and the University of California (UC) Berkeley has discovered a solution to make biodegradable plastics disappear. 

Although biodegradable plastics have been promoted as a response to plastic waste, they do not perform as expected in reality. Compostability is not the same as biodegradability. 

However, through researching nature, Xu and her team have devised a method for destroying biodegradable plastics in weeks using only heat and water. The findings, which were published in Nature on Wednesday, might be game-changing in the fight against plastic waste. They like this to be available in every store.

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History of Plastic in India 

Indian plastics industry began in 1957. However, it took more than 30 years for it to become ingrained in the nation. 

The state-owned Indian Petro-Chemicals had just begun to grow the plastic market in 1979, and in 1994 that plastic soft drink bottles were a noticeable cause of irritation. 

People in other cities deplored the state of public sanitation in the aftermath of the Surat plague fear in 1994 and asked regulatory bodies to prohibit the manufacture, sale, and usage of plastic bags.

Moving ahead, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) reported in 2015 that 6.92 per cent of urban solid waste in the nation is made up of plastic waste (MSW). 

Plastic waste generation data from 60 major cities are extrapolated to show that India generates about 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste per day (TPD).

Present scenario of Plastic 

Waste in India accounts for 1–4% of all solid waste, with the majority of plastic produced from household use, agricultural products, food packaging, and water bottles.

In addition, a few Indian states have a coastal zone that produces plastic waste from beaches. Inadequate disposal of such waste outside of villages and towns causes unsafe and chaotic situations that may only impact the wellbeing of all that live nearby but can cause landfill issues, which have significant environmental consequences and contribute to groundwater contamination.

To reduce plastic use, attempts must be made to consider the use of recycled raw materials in creative goods as a result of recent technological advancements. Plastic can therefore be avoided regularly to better improve sustainable conditions. 

The current research looks at how much plastic is used in all of India’s provinces, and how it is separated from solid waste from industrial waste and other sources. The analysis also provides a comparison of plastic use across India’s states. A long-term strategy for recycling plastic waste to reduce environmental damage.

They get mixed up in the sorting process and pollute recyclable plastics. They end up in landfills, where the conditions aren’t conducive to plastic decomposition, so they exist as long as indefinite plastics. They don’t completely decay until composted, and micro-plastics remain in the soil.

What’s the solution?

Representative Image
Image: Canva

Xu and her team researched nature to develop biodegradable plastics. 

“Enzymes are what nature uses to break things down in the wild — and enzymes allow our bodies to spontaneously decompose after we die,” Xu told Berkeley Lab. “To do this research, we asked ourselves, ‘How do enzymes biodegrade plastic so that it can become part of nature?'” 

The researchers based on polylactic acid, or PLA, a polyester that is found in most compostable plastics. The following is an explanation from Berkeley News about how the method works:

The new method entails implanting polyester-eating enzymes in the plastic during the manufacturing process. A plain polymer coating protects these enzymes, preventing them from unravelling and being useless. When heat is applied and water, the enzyme sheds its silicone sheath and begins chomping the plastic polymer into its constituent parts in the case of PLA, lactic acid, which can be fed to the compost’s soil microbes. The polymer packaging deteriorates as well.

According to the researchers, up to 98 per cent of their altered plastics transformed into small molecules, leaving no micro-plastics behind. After a week at room temperature, the plastics had deteriorated by 80%. Plastics dissolved much further in the heavy temperatures of agricultural composting. They vanished after a few days of warm tap water as well.

Global Plastic Waste 

Image: Our World in Data

From 1950 to 2015, the graph depicts the rise in global plastic demand, estimated in tonnes per year.

In 1950, the world’s annual production was just 2 million tonnes. Annual demand has nearly doubled since then, hitting 381 million tonnes in 2015. To put this in perspective, this is about the size of two-thirds of the world’s population.

The 2008 global financial crisis caused a short decline in annual output in 2009 and 2010, and a similar dent can be seen across many indices of resource production and use, including energy.


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