What is biotransformation technology? How is it helpful in the reduction of plastic pollution? What are the government’s initiatives to reduce plastic pollution? Read further to know more.
A UK-based startup has claimed to have developed a technology that could convert the state of plastics and make them biodegradable, without leaving any microplastics behind. They called the process “Biotransformation”.
As per their claims, the technology utilizes microbes to naturally decompose plastic packaging waste and break it down into biodegradable components without generating any microplastics.
What is Biotransformation Technology?
Biotransformation Technology is a novel approach to processing plastics efficiently and breaking them down. Here are some key points:
- Biotransformation is a technology developed by a UK-based startup, Polymateria, in collaboration with Imperial College in London.
- Technology can alter the state of plastics and make them biodegradable.
- Plastics made using this technology are given a pre-programmed time during which they look and feel 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.
- Biotransformation technology ensures polyolefins fully biodegrade in an open environment causing no microplastics.
How Long Does Biotransformation Take?
The company claims that the biotransformation process of plastic starts quite quickly in nature once the product is expired. It will start to transform plastic into wax over a period of 2 to 4 months. This time period may vary based on the climate.
Need for Biotransformation Technology
The increasing amount of plastic waste generated by human activities has become a major environmental issue in recent years. India alone generates a staggering 3.5 billion kilograms of plastic waste each year, with packaging waste accounting for a third of this amount. Furthermore, the per capita plastic waste generation has doubled over the past five years, indicating the urgency of finding solutions to tackle this problem.
One of the major contributors to plastic waste is the e-commerce industry, with plastic packaging waste from this sector alone estimated to be over a billion kilograms globally in 2019. The sheer volume of plastic waste generated by e-commerce giant Amazon alone in 2021, estimated to be 321 million kilograms, is a cause for concern and underscores the need for innovative solutions to address the Plastic Menace.
The utility of biotransformation technology in reducing plastic waste is not only limited to environmental benefits, but it can also prove to be a cost-effective solution for various industries. The food packaging and healthcare sectors, in particular, can greatly benefit from this technology.
In this context, the emergence of biotransformation technology is a welcome development. This novel approach is aimed at ensuring that plastics that escape refuse streams are processed efficiently and broken down into biodegradable forms.
Alternatives to Reduce Plastic Waste
It is essential to find alternatives to plastic packaging to help reduce this environmental threat. A few important alternatives are:
One alternative that has been gaining popularity is the switch to jute or paper-based packaging. This alternative could potentially cut down plastic waste significantly, and at the same time, build sustainability within the paper industry. Additionally, the use of jute or paper-based packaging could save on the import bill of ethylene solutions.
Moreover, wooden packaging could be an alternative, but this would make the packaging bulkier and increase the cost. These challenges can be overcome by finding ways to reduce the weight and cost of wooden packaging.
The Government of Tamil Nadu, in Chennai, organized the National Expo and Conference of Startups to raise awareness of alternatives to single-use plastics. The event showcased alternatives made using coir, bagasse, rice and wheat bran, plant and agricultural residue, banana and areca leaves, jute, and cloth.
The alternatives showcased at the National Expo and Conference of Startups demonstrate that there are numerous ways to reduce plastic waste. For instance, coir, which is made from coconut husk, can be used to make packaging for food items such as fruits and vegetables. Bagasse, which is a by-product of sugarcane, can be used to make plates, bowls, and other food containers.
Rice and wheat bran, which are waste products from the production of rice and wheat, can be used to make biodegradable packaging.
Government’s Initiatives to Reduce Plastic Pollution
The government has taken several steps to reduce the use of plastic and the amount of plastic in the environment. A few important of them are:
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Clean India Mission was launched in 2014 to promote cleanliness and reduce plastic pollution in the country. Under this mission, the government has been promoting the use of alternatives to single-use plastics and encouraging people to recycle plastic waste.
Extended Producer Responsibility: The government has released an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) guideline. The Guidelines set requirements for EPR, waste plastic packaging recycling, rigid plastic packaging reuse, and utilization of recycled plastic material. The recommendations include switching to plastic packaging that is more environmentally friendly and minimizing its plastic footprint.
Plastic Waste Management Rules: In the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly held in 2019, India piloted a resolution on addressing single-use plastic product pollution, recognizing the urgent need for the global community to focus on this very important issue.
For that India has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, which prohibits identified single-use plastic items which have low utility and high littering potential by 2022. The rules also impose penalties on individuals and businesses for littering and not following proper waste disposal methods.
The increasing amount of plastic waste generated by e-commerce and other means has become a major environmental concern. In response to this, biotransformation technology has emerged as a novel approach to ensure that plastics are processed efficiently and broken down, without leaving behind any microplastics. This technology could be used by the food and healthcare industries to reduce waste efficiently.
Moreover, the Indian government has also launched multiple initiatives to move the country towards sustainability, including a ban on single-use plastics and the development of a mobile app to report single-use plastics grievances. The use of jute or paper-based packaging could also potentially cut down plastic waste. However, the promotion and adoption of sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics are crucial to tackling the ever-growing problem of plastic pollution.
- Plastic Pollution
- Plastic Waste Management: Rules and Regulations
- Single-use Plastics
- Environmental Pollution and Degradation
Article Written By: Priti Raj