One company is attempting to improve India’s air and water by making packaging out of plant fibers


In India alone, around 15,000 tons of plastic are used every single day, which translates to over 5.5 million tons every year. These numbers wouldn’t be a problem – if every single piece of plastic was being recycled. Sadly, that’s not the case as 6,000 out of the 15,000 tons go to either landfills or different bodies of water and cause pollution.

Fortunately, a German company called Bio-lutions has come up with an idea to help improve the country’s waste problem. In their pilot plant, the company manufactures eco-friendly food packaging from plant fibers.

In an article from CityLab, Kurian Mathew, managing director of Bio-lutions, recalled a story of how they started reusing mulberry leaves as a raw material in their production processes. He said that tons of this particular agricultural waste are left over from pruned plants every month. One day, a farmer called to ask if Bio-lutions was willing to take the waste to which Mathew and his partner, George Thomas, agreed.

To start the process, the leaves were shredded and dried for at least two days before getting cleaned up. They were then mixed with water and were placed in a patented machine to be turned to self-binding fibers. (Related: Agricultural waste could be contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.)

Before it was put into a forming machine more water was added, and with the help of centrifugal force, the materials turned into a pulp. Packaging trays for fruits and vegetables were successfully created using the mulberry leaves.

“Our products are like leaves: They biodegrade in three months,” Mathew added. “We’re just giving another life to agricultural residue by converting it into something usable.”

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Aside from mulberry, the company also makes use of wheat and rice straw, sugarcane leaves, banana stems, pineapple leaves, and tomato plants to make environmentally friendly items. Another advantage is that they only use 3.7 to 5.3 quarts of water to process slightly more than two pounds of products, add no chemicals, and use very little energy.

Addressing the pollution issues in India

The initiative from Bio-lutions to reuse agricultural waste is not only a win for the company but also for the environment. A 2017 study showed that India has significantly contributed to rising pollution levels around the globe. Researchers also found that among 10 rivers that drain more than 90 percent of the world’s plastic waste into the ocean, three of them flow through India. Moreover, at least 90 percent of Delhi, India’s pollution during fall and winter seasons are caused by what they call stubble-burning by farmers. It is the act of burning significant amounts of agricultural waste to prepare for the next farming season.

A geographer from Miami UniversityJessica McCarty, said, Indian farmers who practice stubble-burning don’t have enough knowledge on how to recycle the wastes from their farms. In rare cases that they do know of an option, “[alternatives] also need to be cheap or subsidized for the farmers to switch their management practices.”

With the work of Bio-solutions, two of India’s biggest pollution issues are being addressed, and at the same time, farmers are getting paid for the crop waste they give to the company. Currently, the company has found a stable market and is moving into a bigger location closer to farmers. With this, transportation cost and carbon footprint will be cut down. Mathews also happily shared that they’ve received enough orders to profit at least 2.5 million euros in one year. Their next target is to create tableware made from agricultural wastes.

Visit Environ.news for more stories about creative solutions to pollution.

Sources include:

CityLab.com

Pubs.ACS.org



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