29 Mai 2011

Bio-plastic bags trying to change the face of carry bag market

Earthsoul India partnering with Novamont for bioplastic bag supply

With the Supreme Court coming down heavily on the use of plastic pouches for ‘gutka’ and a number of States banning plastic carry bag, an eco-friendly bio-plastic bag is trying to replace the ubiquitous polythene bag in the retail markets in India.

The compostable bio-plastic bags is produced out of non-edible vegetable oils and starch unlike the traditional polythene material that is oil-based. “Oil is scarce and expensive and this movement towards bio-plastic could well shift focus from oil wells to oil farms with cultivators increasingly going for vegetable oilseeds,” Stefano Facco, a top executive of an Italian bio-polymer firm, told PTI. “I am happy to see the increased focus on environment friendly products in India,” said Mr. Facco, who is in India at the invitation of Earthsoul India, which launched the bio-plastic bags six years ago.

These bags are water-proof, transparent and hygienic and come in varied sizes to hold domestic wet garbage of 2 kg to 5 kg and large trash of 15 kg to 20 kg. Enquiries have already come in from some State agriculture departments for packaging seeds in small to large bags, he said. Unlike polymer bags which remain in the soil and harm it in the process, the bio-plastic material is naturally compostable and does not harm the nature at all, Perses Billimoria, Founder and CEO of Earthsoul, said. Mr. Billimoria welcomed the initiative taken by large institutions like Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams of the famous Balaji temple, which have recently floated tenders for bio-plastic bags. Some States like Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan have totally banned plastic bags and others are moving towards that “but it is still miles to go,” he said.

Talking about the popularity of bio-plastic in Europe, Mr. Facco, who is the New Business development Director of Novamont S.p.A, said that at least 5,000 municipal authorities in the continent were using the product in varied sizes and the market is growing at 20 to 30 percent. He said there could be a socio-economic angle to the bio-plastic movement, apart from the environmental issue. Farmers could also benefit by cultivating vegetable oilseeds like castor as the industry grows. For instance, Novamont’s bio-refinery is integrated with the local farming community, he added.

The characteristics of the product include: completely biodegradable in various environments through composting, or in soil, fresh and salt water, suitable for use with existing industrial technology for traditional plastics with no drop in productivity, printable using standard inks and printing technologies, without corona pre-treatment, can be coloured using biodegradable master batches, intrinsic antistatic properties and Gamma-ray sterilisation. Apart from the carry bags, the bio-plastic can also find application in agriculture, toys, cutlery, nappies, sanitary towels, catering and so on, Mr. Facco said. As part of its social responsibility, Earthsoul and its partner Novamont have decided not to supply their bio-plastic material to the Rs 40,000 crore Gutka industry.

Source: The Hindu, 2011-05-29.

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