New Delhi: A one of its kind technology of making sustainable plastics or bioplastic polymers has been devised by a team of six researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU), Israel. The study recently published in the journal ‘Bioresource Technology’ details the process of making bioplastic polymers. The process involves developing bioplastic polymer from marine microorganisms that feed on seaweed. The resulting polymer, which is biodegradable, produces zero toxic waste and completely recycles into organic waste.
The bioplastic polymer made by TAU is called polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) which is derived from compounds extracted from microorganisms feeding on seaweed called levulinic acid derived from the degradation of cellulose. PHA is an emerging biopolymer that can be used for multiple applications.
The study evaluated cellulose composition to find carbon for making PHA in seven seaweeds. According to Dr. Alexander Golberg, one of the researchers, plastic is being largely produced from petroleum products and has an industrial process that releases chemical contaminants as a by-product, as per the statement released by TAU. He said,
Plastics take hundreds of years to decay. So bottles, packaging and bags create plastic ‘continents’ in the oceans, endanger animals and pollute the environment.
There are ample evidences that show that there are large amounts of plastics and microplastics even in the most remote corners of oceans. As per the United Nations, plastic accounts for up to 90 percent of all the pollutants in oceans and every year more than eight million tonnes end up in the oceans. According to an estimate, by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Yet there are few comparable, environmentally friendly alternatives to the material. Dr. Golberg asserted that the new study could be very helpful in the efforts to clean the oceans.
The researchers say that bioplastics can be a part of the solution to the plastic epidemic. Bioplastic is an alternative to the conventional petrobased plastic and are made through biobased, renewable and biodegradable sources such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, straw, and woodchips.
However, bioplastics also have an environmental price as it includes growing the plants or the bacteria to make the plastic which requires fertile soil and fresh water, resources that are scarce in much of the world, according to the researchers.
The process devised by TAU includes single-celled microorganisms and the raw material for making bioplastic – seaweed being grown in salty sea water naturally. It does not require fresh water or land for procuring/ growing microorganisms and thus no environmental cost will be involved. Dr. Golberg said,
There are already factories that produce this type of bioplastic in commercial quantities, but having a brick and mortar facility requires both access to land and water.
The study proposes that countries with limited land and water resources such as Israel, China, and India, to switch from petroleum-derived plastics to biodegradable plastics using this more agile method.
The research team is now working on finding the best microorganism that would be most suitable for producing polymers for bioplastics with different properties. These bioplastics also provide an additional hand for the development of bioprocessing and biorefinery.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.