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19 October 2022

Design For Life
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BioTex: DIY Bioplastic

Research on Bioplastics: Sustainable and ecological materials that cause zero damage to the Environment.
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Plastic in the times of pandemic.

Plastic has played a very essential part in protecting our frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The global demand for certain uses of plastic has increased due to the Coronavirus. Masks, personal protective suits, medical face shields and protective gears have all seen a rise in demand as the pandemic plays out. Not only this, but e-commerce websites and restaurants are also heavily dependent on plastic for packaging and safe storage & transport of food.

Image courtesy: https://maritimeindia.org/covid-19-and-india-the-challenge-of-marine-debris/

Image courtesy: https://maritimeindia.org/covid-19-and-india-the-challenge-of-marine-debris/

The problem is, all of this plastic is finding its way into piles of garbage and if we do not take urgent and proper actions now, it will negatively impact our health, wildlife, and the natural environment in the long term.

But, can we protect our health while still minimizing the negative impact of plastic on our environment?

 

Approach

To tackle the growing environmental issues, I started working on Bioplastics.

Bioplastic is a material which is either biobased (partly derived from plants), biodegradable or features both properties. They are better for the environment because they are not petroleum-based and can be used to reduce the problem of plastic waste that has been suffocating the planet.

BioTex uses materials that are normally discarded as waste, but have the potential of becoming a raw material that could be used for making bioplastics. Waste like fruit & vegetable peel and Sea food waste (exoskeleton of sea creatures) have been used to produce materials which look like synthetic plastic, but it is eco-friendly, sustainable, compostable, does not harm marine life and keeps the environment clean. For “compostable” plastics to break down into simpler chemical compounds, composting facilities with controlled conditions (e.g., added nutrients and specific temperature) are required.

Don’t Waste the Waste! Materials produced from renewable sources

How to make your own Bioplastic?

There are several ways of creating this material. I will be discussing one of the methods through which you can make your own Bioplastic.

Raw materials could be: gelatin, seaweed, rice/potato/cassava/corn starch, chitin/chitosan (extract from exoskeleton of seafood waste), microbes etc.

Here is an example of how to make your own bioplastic from cornstarch :

Bioplastic made using Corn Starch.

Features.

  • Natural fibers being of organic nature are perishable and their decomposition is a natural phenomenon.
  • Bioplastics are  lightweight, strong, flexible, can add safety/stability to packaged goods during transport and are also good oxygen barriers.
  • A range of products can be made using these materials – for packaging purposes, to store dry food, for zip locks, carry bags and perhaps even PPE like face shields.
  • Unlike conventional plastic, which can take hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill, bioplastics can break down using naturally occurring processes.
  • It is best to compost bioplastics in a hot and aerobic environment.

Bioplastic made using a) Rice starch, b) Cornstarch c) Gelatin d) Agar agar e) & f) Kombucha
Natural pigments have been used as a coloring agent.

 

What consumers can do to help prevent plastic pollution during Pandemic:

  • Use reusable/biodegradable shopping bags.
  • Use reusable cloth masks.
  • Use reusable/biodegradable tableware instead of plastic dishware.
  • Responsibly discard disposable products like masks and gloves through formal waste collection systems, rather than littering or leaving them in public places.

I strongly believe that single-use plastic should never be built to last, they should be designed to disappear. The future does not have to be more plastic, we can achieve both sustainability and healthier life by making responsible choices.

  • Do share and comment if you found this article useful and if you make your own bioplastic!
  • If you use the bioplastic to make face shields or any PPE, please ensure that you follow local guidelines for biohazard disposal.

Visit Nidihi’s blog for more information: https://warpedweft.wordpress.com/

 

STORY BY

Nidhi Mittal (India)

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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