Biodegradable Polymers & Sonalibag

Plastic pollution in our world and alternative way to solve this issue.

Biodegradable Polymers & Sonalibag

Biodegradable Polymers & Sonalibag

-- Reduction of Carbon Emission

 

 

Nowadays the term biodegradable and non-biodegradable is a burning question in our community. Before going to the discussion, at first, we have to know what does biodegradable and non-biodegradable means. The term "Biodegradable" refers to the ability of things to get disintegrated (decomposed) by the action of microorganisms such as bacteria or fungi biological (with or without oxygen) while getting assimilated into the natural environment. There's no ecological harm during the process. On the other hand, the term non-biodegradable refers to the polymers that do not break down to a natural, environmentally safe condition over time by biological processes. 

From the above definition we can say that the polymers which can decompose in a few days are decomposed by the action of microorganisms and are known as Biodegradable Polymers. On the other hand, the polymers which are not decomposed by the action of microorganisms and are referred to as non-biodegradable polymers. Biodegradable polymers are auspicious for the environment and non-biodegradable polymers are against the motion of it. Most plastics are non-biodegradable mainly because plastic is widely used because of its low cost, versatility and durability. The main areas of use for plastic films are organic waste bags, fruit and vegetable bags, carrier bags with dual-use (first for shopping, then for organic waste) or agricultural films.

 If we turned the non-biodegradable plastics into biodegradable then the emission of carbon will be minimized. But how can we do that? There are just a few challenges to overcome first. Plastic is crude oil! In order to extract the oil, plastic needs to be heated to over 400 °C. At this temperature, the long-chain molecules from the plastic are cracked and produce synthetic crude oil. Which is an eminent example of turning non-biodegradable plastics into biodegradable. One of the main advantages of using biodegradable polymers to make plastic bags is the significant reduction in the carbon emissions that happen during the manufacturing process as compared to that of regular plastic. It also helps in lesser energy consumption, eco-friendly disposable solution, recyclable material and so on. On the other hand, non-biodegradable is the reason for contamination and non-usable. Which makes a great harm to our environment and economic purposes also.

Biodegradable plastics require composting or recycling to ensure proper breakdown of the plastic pieces to enable the natural composting process. The requirement to properly dispose/process biodegradable plastic products automatically reduces the amount of waste that would otherwise be sent to landfills. Biodegradable polymers are often used to reduce the volume of waste in packaging materials. The production of PLA has several advantages, the most important of which is the ability to tailor the physical properties of the polymer through processing methods. Some of these useful biodegradable polymers are poly vinyl alcohol (PVA) and poly(caprolactone) (PCL), which can be blended with a synthetic polymer such as poly vinyl chloride (PVC) to facilitate their biodegradation in the environment.

To solve this burning issue, Dr Mubarak Ahmad Khan, chief scientific officer at Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation, synthesized polymer from jute fiber which can be used to create a kind of bag that works, looks and feels like a polythene bag but without the negative environmental impact. Mubarak named his discovery “jute polymer” or “Sonalibag”. It is produced by extracting cellulose from jute fiber.                                                                                                  

Despite being biodegradable, this polymer is water and air resistant and is 1.5 times stronger than polythene. The eco-friendly polymer also decomposes in soil within five to six months as opposed to polythene, which could take several hundred years. Furthermore, the material is durable and can support more weight than the conventionally used polythene bags. Besides, the key constituent of packaging is jute cellulose which gives us benefits in two ways,

  1. By increasing production of jute and
  2. Reducing the foreign currencies outflow.  

Currently, extensive researches are conducted in the area of biodegradable plastic worldwide. The goal is to develop a type of plastic that can naturally break down to nontoxic compounds. However, several drawbacks are still there such as low strength and low stability in aqueous environment, high moisture uptake etc. Unfortunately, carbon gets locked in these biodegradable plastics and is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Another downside to these biodegradable plastics is that they require sunlight to degrade. Plastics buried in landfills will not receive the sun the need to degrade and, therefore, can still last for decades. While there are still many questions left answered when it comes to the environment and plastic is here to stay for a very long time.  In the end we can say that this is just the beginning of building a green planet by reducing carbon. 

 

                                           

 

-- Musaddik Habib

 

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