Plastic, a major pollutant due to its nondegradable properties, is yet an essential product that is widely used. However, new ecofriendly technological developments available globally, are now being made available in India too.
HPL Additives Ltd, a premium player in the additive industry and also a leading exporter to over 49 countries globally, is joining hands with EPI Environment Technologies Canada, a global supplier of additives for oxo bio degradable plastic applications in manufacturing a remarkable range of oxo biodegradable plastic in India.
Like any other developing country, India has extensive plastic use. A complete ban on plastic use is impossible to achieve as plastic, as a product is cheap and easily available in the country. Also multiple plastic products have gained indispensable use among the public. Paper is the only possible alternative to plastic. It cannot be used because of threat of aforestation. Currently, India’s plastic waste amounts to 5.6 million tonnes annually. With poor waste management infrastructure and a slowly growing awareness about segregation, treatment and disposal, plastic waste management is a challenge in the country. With Prime Minister’s Swachch Bharat and Make in India agendas catching up, the indigenuous manufacture of oxo-biodegradable plastics will be a constructive step in the direction.
What is oxo bio degradation
Oxo biodegradation involves two steps: conventional polyolefin plastic is first oxo-degraded to short-chain oxygenated molecules, and then biodegraded by microorganisms (Bacteria, Fungi, etc.). The presence of an oxo-formulated additive in concentrations of 1-3% (TDPA) within the petroleum based plastic is what differentiates it from the conventional plastic. This additive allows the plastics to degrade in the presence of oxygen, light, heat and moisture. Degradation happens in an open environment.
The process does not use up excessive resources like the other Oxo ranges of plastic does and certainly not a threat to the environment. Umesh Anand, Joint Managing Director, HPL Additives explains the technology behind the manufacture. “EPI’s oxobiodegradable additives known as TDPA (Totally Degradable Plastic Additives) are manufactured with twin-screw extruder production line, just like the way most specialty additives or master batches are manufactured. The advent of new extrusion technologies makes the production of TPDA additives more energy efficient and cost effective. Overall, the technology does not entail extra or additional processes that will consume more energy or power during production.”
The degradation of the kind of plastic takes place in the presence of oxygen and accelerated by heat and UV rays. The material gets converted into oxygen in less than 180 days. The performance of oxo biodegradable plastic is the same as conventional plastic. It is tested to ASTM D6954 or BS 8472 to prove that it degrades and biodegrades without becoming toxic in a chosen timescale.
The product has so many advantages. The product life of plastics incorporating TDPA can be customized at manufacture to degrade within a timescale to suit the user’s requirements, ranging from a few months to years. The product life of plastics incorporating TDPA can be maximized by keeping it away from direct sunlight and heat (below 35C.) They have similar physical and mechanical properties as conventional plastics, no special equipment or processing is required to incorporate TDPA into plastics. They are re-useable and recyclable; (plastic bag incorporating TDPA was evaluated by a Quebec government agency and found to be fully compatible with recycling stream) independent testing and scientific studies have verified that TDPA incorporated products are degradable, biodegradable and will not release harmful residues to the environment during decomposition. They are non-toxic and safe for food contact applications. Above all, it is a costeffective technology with just 1-2% addition rates for manufacture.
Uses of oxo plastic
The use of polyolefin plastics in packaging applications is commonplace because these materials are inexpensive, easy to fabricate, have good barrier properties and have a wide range of physical and mechanical properties. EPI’s TDPA can be used to manufacture single use plastic products such as carry-bags, garbage bags, produce bags, shopping bags, Ziplock bags, cling films, cutleries, cups, plates, food trays, aprons and gloves, BOPP films, food containers made from PE, PP, Plastic Sheets, or PS and an be organically degraded. Farmers who use this new plastic need not worry about the removal of tons of plastic sheets or film, post harvest.
At the end of its product life, plastic products with TPDA will degrade in any outdoor or indoor environment where air (oxygen) is present, even in the absence of water. The degradation process is accelerated by heat and sunlight.
The futuristic feature
“Plastics litter is primarily derived from used packaging that is inadvertently or irresponsibly discarded. In most of the developed world, its visual impact is out of proportion to the actual volume littered but this erodes brand equity for the product packaged and has also led to legislation to limit packaging volumes and options. In less developed countries where there may be lack of waste management infrastructure, plastic litter can cause myriad problems including the provision of containers for standing water where insect carrying mosquitoes can breed, clogging of drainage systems and suffocation of animals and marine species. EPI’s TDPA technology is a practical solution to address the issue of plastic waste accumulation in the environment. The technology converts plastic packaging into biodegradable material and maintains all the advantages of economical production of safe and hygienic packaging. Additionally, independent testing and scientific studies have verified that TDPA incorporated plastics will not release harmful residues and have no ecotoxic effect during its degradation and biodegradation processes,” explains Umesh.
This product, formed by the combination of plastic with an oxo bio degradable propreitary application when discarded in soil in the presence of micro-organisms, moisture and oxygen, completely biodegrades decomposing into simple material found in nature leave no residue or harmful toxins.
Says Joseph Gho, EPI President and CEO, “EPI is committed to achieving sustainable and environmentallyfriendly means of utilizing plastic products while keeping the process cost effective. Furthermore, our unparalleled record for innovation, underpinned by rigorous scientific validation of our technology, places EPI at the forefront of the degradable plastics industry. Our commitment to disseminating oxo-biodegradable plastic technology globally remains undiminished, and this tie-up with HPL is a giant stride in that direction.”
Based on the feedback from its 1600 members from 63 countries, the world oxo biodegradable Plastic Association reports that the new range of plastic is becoming an industry favourite with increased applications in agriculture and horticulture. The global additives market is forecast to have a revenue of $57.8 billion by 2020. Countries in Africa, Asia and Middle East have already legislated for this product.