BIOTRANSFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

A U.K.-based startup claims to have developed biotransformation technology that can alter the state of plastics and make them biodegradable without leaving behind any microplastics.

What is biotransformation technology?

  • Biotransformation technology is a novel approach to ensure plastics that escape refuse streams are processed efficiently and broken down.
  • Plastics made using this technology are given a pre-programmed time during which the manufactured material looks and feels like conventional plastics without compromising on quality.
  • Once the product expires and is exposed to the external environment, it self-destructs and biotransforms into bioavailable wax.
  • This wax is then consumed by microorganisms, converting waste into water, CO2, and biomass.
  • This biotransformation technology is the world’s first that ensures polyolefins fully biodegrade in an open environment causing no microplastics.

Need for such technology in India:

  • The country is generating 3.5 billion kgs of plastic waste annually.
  • Per capita plastic waste generation has doubled in the past five years.
  • Of this, a third comes from packaging waste.
  • In 2019, plastic packaging waste from e-commerce firms was estimated at over a billion kilograms worldwide.
  • Amazon (e-commerce site) generated nearly 210 million kgs of plastic from packaging waste in 2019.
  • They also estimated that up to 10 million kgs of Amazon’s plastic packaging ended up in the world’s freshwater and marine ecosystems as pollution in the same year.
  • (However, Amazon India has now eliminated single-use plastics across its fulfilment centers. Flipkart has also done the same in 2021 across its supply chain.)

Where can this technology be used?

Food packaging and health care industries are the two prime sectors that could use this technology to reduce waste.

Is this being used in India?

  • Some well-known Indian firms in food and packaging industries deploy such technologies.
  • Within healthcare and pharma industries, this technology provides biodegradable solutions for non-woven hygiene products like diapers, sanitary napkins, facial pads, etc.

Initiatives by Indian Government:

  • The Indian government has launched multiple initiatives to move the country towards sustainability.
  • They have introduced a plastic waste management gazette to help tackle the ever-growing plastic pollution caused by single-use plastics.
  • The government imposed a ban on single-use plastics to bring a stop to its use in the country.
  • The National Dashboard on Elimination of Single Use Plastic and Plastic Waste Management brings all stakeholders together to track the progress made in eliminating single-use plastic and effectively managing such waste.
  • An Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) portal helps in improving accountability traceability, and facilitating ease of compliance reporting in relation to EPR obligations of the producers, importers and brand-owners.
  • India has also developed a mobile app to report single use plastics grievances to check sale, usage or manufacturing of single use plastics in their area.

Alternatives to reducing plastic waste

  • A switch to jute or paper-based packaging could potentially cut down plastic waste.
  • This could also build sustainability within the paper industry, and save on the import bill on ethylene solutions.
  • The wooden packaging is yet another alternative, but that will make the packaging bulkier and increase cost.
  • The Government of Tamil Nadu organised a National Expo and Conference of Startups to raise awareness on alternatives to single-use plastics.
  • The alternatives showcased were made using coir, bagasse, rice and wheat bran, plant and agricultural residue, banana and areca leaves, jute and cloth.

SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB

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