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Biotransformation Technology


A U.K.-based startup, based at Imperial College in London, claims to have developed a technology that could alter the state of plastics and make them biodegradable. The company calls the process “biotransformation”.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is biotransformation technology?
  2. Why do we need it?
  3. Applications and Progress of this Technology in India
  4. Alternatives to Plastic Packaging Waste

What is biotransformation technology?

  • Biotransformation technology is a novel approach to ensure plastics that escape refuse streams are processed efficiently and broken down.
  • The tech was co-developed by the Imperial College in London, U.K., and a Britain-based startup, Polymateria.
  • Plastics made using this technology are given a pre-programmed time during which the manufactured material looks and feels like conventional plastics without compromising on quality.
  • Once the product expires and is exposed to the external environment, it self-destructs and biotransforms into bioavailable wax. This wax is then consumed by microorganisms, converting waste into water, CO2, and biomass.
  • This biotransformation technology is the world’s first that ensures polyolefins fully biodegrade in an open environment causing no microplastics.

Why do we need it?

  • Plastic waste generation is a significant environmental concern in India. In 2022, the country generated 3.5 billion kgs of plastic waste annually, with a third of it coming from packaging waste.
  • E-commerce firms are also contributing to the plastic packaging waste problem worldwide. In 2019, it was estimated that plastic packaging waste from e-commerce companies was over a billion kilograms.
  • Amazon, in particular, generated almost 210 million kgs of plastic from packaging waste in 2019, with an estimated 10 million kgs of it ending up as pollution in freshwater and marine ecosystems.
  • However, there is some good news. Amazon India has taken a step towards reducing plastic waste by eliminating single-use plastics across its fulfilment centers. Flipkart has also done the same in 2021 across its supply chain.
  • It is essential to reduce plastic packaging waste to protect the environment, reduce pollution, and promote sustainable living. More efforts are needed to address this issue globally.

Applications and Progress of this Technology in India

  • The technology that reduces waste can be used in food packaging and healthcare industries. It offers a biodegradable solution for non-woven hygiene products like diapers, sanitary napkins, and facial pads.
  • Some well-known Indian firms in the food and packaging industries are already deploying such sustainable technologies.
  • The Indian government has taken several initiatives to move towards sustainability, such as introducing a plastic waste management gazette and imposing a ban on single-use plastics in the country.
  • The National Dashboard on Elimination of Single Use Plastic and Plastic Waste Management tracks the progress made in eliminating single-use plastics.
  • The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) portal improves accountability, traceability, and facilitates ease of compliance reporting in relation to EPR obligations.
  • India has developed a mobile app to report single-use plastics grievances, which helps to check the sale, usage, or manufacturing of single-use plastics in a particular area.
  • These initiatives and sustainable technologies indicate that India is moving in the right direction towards a cleaner, healthier, and sustainable future.

Alternatives to Plastic Packaging Waste

  • Jute or paper-based packaging could potentially cut down on plastic waste. This could also promote sustainability within the paper industry and reduce the import bill on ethylene solutions. However, using wooden packaging is another alternative, but it may make the packaging bulkier and increase cost.
  • The Government of Tamil Nadu in Chennai organized a National Expo and Conference of Startups to raise awareness of alternatives to single-use plastics. The alternatives showcased were made from coir, bagasse, rice and wheat bran, plant and agricultural residue, banana and areca leaves, jute, and cloth.
  • Alternatives to plastic packaging waste are necessary to promote sustainable living and reduce the environmental impact of plastic waste.
  • By adopting these alternatives, we can minimize the negative impact of plastic packaging waste on the environment and promote a cleaner and healthier future.

-Source: The Hindu


March 2024