Green Chemistry discovery leading to safer plastics

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 11 Dec 2018 13:13:06

The world recognises the practice of ‘Green Chemistry and Engineering’ not only leading to a cleaner and more sustainable earth, but also economically beneficial with many positive social impacts.

Green Chemistry, also called as Sustainable Chemistry, is an area of chemistry and engineering which encompasses the designing of products and processes that minimise the use and generation of hazardous substances.
The most serious and critical issue raised in today's world is the justified use of plastics. Recently, the ban was announced on almost all plastics and plastic articles in Maharashtra as it was said that these were the cause for diseases and the ban would help in saving many lives.

This issue can be solved either by finding out a substitute for plastics or by a revolution in plastics!! The first option is difficult practically, since our day starts and ends with polymer products from a simple toothbrush to tiffin, chairs, tables and many more. Revolution is nothing but a change for our own good, so, why not plastics??

Our very own Indian firm, ‘SKYI’ have developed innovations in the field of bio-based and bio-degradable polymers which have set a new benchmark. The products are made up of Polylactic Acid (PLA), Cellulose and Polyhydroxy Butyrate (PHB) compounds. Both PLA and PHB are derived from bacterial fermentation of plant starches or sugars. The starch is converted into a polymer, the main ingredient in materials that have plastic-like feel. The products were observed to have a long service life and are biodegradable.

Nature Works of Minnetonka, Minnesota (USA) makes food containers from a polymer called polylactic acid branded as ‘Ingeo’. The scientists have discovered a method where micro organisms convert corn-starch into a resin that is just as strong as rigid petroleum based plastic, currently used for containers such as water bottles and yogurt pots.

BASF developed a compostable polyester film called ‘Ecoflex’. They are making and marketing fully bio degradable bags ‘Ecovio’ made of this film along with cassava starch and calcium carbonate. Certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute, the bags completely disintegrate into water, CO2, and biomass in the industrial composting systems. The bags are tear resistant, puncture resistant, waterproof, printable and elastic. Using these bags in place of conventional plastic bags, kitchen and yard waste will quickly degrade in the municipal composting systems.

The researches greatly improved the use of plant oil instead of petroleum as a raw material to produce high end plastic resins. The plant oil can be used instead of traditional oil from the fossil fuels to produce highly desired special plastics called polyamides.

The bulk of plastics are made from fossil fuels. As the oil supplies dwindle, there is a need to find novel, renewable sources of raw materials that can be used to make everyday products of plastics.
Research and studies on ‘Green Chemistry’ can lead to various alternatives which will be beneficial for our society. We must promote ‘Green Chemistry’ and its research to bring safer plastics and make them the boon of our society.













Viveka Billa
MIT, Pune, 3rd Year, Polymer Engineering