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Scientists develop eco-friendly material, possible substitute for plastics

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By Sahana Ghosh

Kolkata: Indian scientists have created an environmentally-friendly material from renewable natural marine resources that could eventually replace the fossil fuel-derived plastics commonly used in a variety of applications.

The eco-friendly substance, developed from seaweed extracts, has the potential to substitute plastic in applications like packaging material and ropes and thereby reduce dependency on fossil fuels for production of plastic products, the scientists say.

“The building blocks of plastics and synthetics, we use every day are mostly derived from fossil oils or crude oils,” Pushpito Ghosh, a professor of chemical engineering at Mumbai’s Institute of Chemical Technology, told IANS on the phone.

“Using materials derived from renewable natural sources such as seaweeds on a large scale, could help reduce dependency on finite fossil fuel reserves,” said the former director of the CSIR-Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute and one of the study authors.

He was the director when the research began.

The researchers used extracts of three seaweed species cultivated in India and treated it with a common industrial chemical called vinyl acetate to make it water repellent.

The intention was to fabricate ropes from this partly-synthetic and partly-natural substance and replace the nylon ropes used in seaweed farming in marine waters.

But there is more to the achievement than just biodegradable ropes.

Plastic bottles and wrapping materials continue to contribute to the pollution.
Plastic bottles and wrapping materials continue to contribute to the pollution.

“It could replace plastic in many ways, such as in packaging material, ropes for drying clothes, bag handles and other home decor items when produced on a large scale,” Ramavatar Meena, a senior scientist at the institute, told IANS on the phone.

Seaweeds, which are marine plants, are known as super foods for their high nutrient content.

A source of industrially important gums and gelling or thickening agents, they grow naturally along the coast of Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

“The rope made from seaweed extracts lasted over 45 days in the field and over six months in sea water under laboratory conditions. On the other hand, it degraded on being buried in the soil,” Meena said.

Although the vinyl acetate constituent of the novel material is biodegradable to a certain extent, Ghosh said the next challenge is to ramp up the level of natural content (seaweed extracts) and further improve its properties.

July 3 is International Plastic Bag Free Day
July 3 is International Plastic Bag Free Day

Making the raw material cost-effective is another important target of the team, he said.

“Plastic is produced on a massive scale. To be competent, we are looking at ways to cultivate the seaweed on a grander scale,” Ghosh added.

The study is published online in RSC Advances journal. The other members of the team are J.P. Chaudhary, Dharmesh Chejara and K. Eswaran.

(IANS)

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Question Mark over Airtel Delhi Half Marathon amidst Rising Pollution Levels; Will the Event Shift to a New Window?

The Indian Medical Association had called for cancellation of the event a few days ago

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Airtel Delhi Half Marathon
Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) is an annual half marathon foot-race held in New Delhi, India (representative image) Pixabay

New Delhi, November 10, 2017 : The alarming levels of pollution in the national capital has forced the organisers of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon to consider shifting the event to a new window.

“There is a possibility to shift this event to a new window… we may organize the event earlier or later. We have the option of the alternative window. We will discuss with our stakeholders and see which will the best window for the event,” said Vivek Singh, Joint Managing Director of the Procam International, the organizers of the event, here on Thursday.

A few days ago, Airtel, who have been one of the prime sponsors of the event for the last nine years, also threatened to pull out of the annual event citing pollution levels in the city but however, came out in support of the organizers on Thursday.

“As always, we will continue to support the event. It is great to see the fantastic response to the call for registration for Airtel Delhi Half Marathon,” said Ravi Negi, CEO of Bharti Airtel, Delhi NCR.

Singh also asserted the foreign athletes have gone back satisfied with the conditions in previous editions of the event.

“All foreign participants are aware of the situation and will participate. Last year, Rio Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge won the event in almost similar conditions and returned without complains,” he said.

“You cannot cancel an international event so easily. Athletes are preparing since last many months and there is no question of cancelling the event.”

The Indian Medical Association had called for cancellation of the event a few days ago but Singh said the event will go on as planned.

“They have issued a warning and they are right. It is a concern but we still have 10 days to go and air quality might improve,” he said.

“To reduce the pollutants, roads will be sprayed and treated with salt water and all vehicles will be off roads 12 hours prior to the event, and hopefully improved air conditions will bring better running experience for the participants.” (IANS)

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Delhi Smog: Odd-Even Car Rule May Return; Consider Cloud Seeding to curb Pollution : HC

The court said that though stubble-burning was the "visible villain", authorities should address the "other elephants in the room" such as dust generated by road and construction activity as well as vehicular and industrial pollution.

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Issuing a slew of direction as immediate measures to control pollution in Delhi-NCR, the court banned felling of trees, ordered sprinkling of water on roads to control dust. Pixabay

New Delhi, November 9, 2017 : The Delhi High Court on Thursday said there was an “emergency situation” vis-a-vis pollution in Delhi-NCR region and asked the Delhi government to consider vehicular odd-even scheme and cloud seeding to induce artificial rain.

The court also asked the Centre to hold meetings with Delhi and National Capital Region authorities to bring in short-term measures to control pollution immediately and to submit a report to it on November 16, the next date of hearing.

Issuing a slew of direction as immediate measures to control pollution in Delhi-NCR, the court banned felling of trees, ordered sprinkling of water on roads to control dust and strict enforcement of construction code to ensure that the air was not polluted.

A Division Bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva also directed the Chief Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Control to call an emergency meeting with his counterparts in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and pollution control agencies within three days to discuss ways to curb pollution.

The bench said the Chief Secretaries will also consider the feasibility of cloud seeding to bring down air pollution. This, the bench said, was not a very expensive process and Bengaluru had adopted it.

The court asked the Delhi government to consider bringing back the odd-even scheme — under which vehicles of odd and even registration numbers, with exceptions, ply on roads on designated days — to control traffic congestion and unclog the capital.

But the court questioned the government move to increase parking rates by four times.

“If somebody has to go to a hospital or buy important items, he ends up paying four times more for the parking,” the bench said.

The court said that though stubble-burning was the “visible villain”, authorities should address the “other elephants in the room” such as dust generated by road and construction activity as well as vehicular and industrial pollution.

“London has faced this kind of air pollution. They term it as pea soup fog, which is a killer fog. This is a deadly mixture of construction and vehicular dust and other factors,” the bench said.

The court also directed the Delhi government to conduct a survey of all hospitals in the national capital on availability of oxygen to deal with emergency situations with regard to vulnerability of children and senior citizens.

It told the Delhi government to strictly regulate the entry of trucks into the city.

The court was hearing a suo motu case it initiated in 2015 to control air pollution in the national capital. (IANS)

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Was the Ban on Sale of Firecrackers in Delhi Successful? Data on Pollution Levels in Delhi Say Otherwise

Despite the much talked about cracker-ban, pollution monitoring stations placed the capital in the ‘red zone’, indicating ‘very poor’ air quality.

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While the ban on crackers imposed by the Supreme Court aimed to reduce pollution levels in Delhi, figures from pollution monitoring system paint an unhealthy picture with amplified levels of air pollution. (Representative image) Pixabay

New Delhi, October 20, 2017: The Supreme Court had on October 9 banned the sale of firecrackers in Delhi during Diwali in order to counter the pollution, deteriorating air quality and smog-like conditions that have come to be associated with the festival in recent times.

While a radical change was not expected following the ban on firecrackers, a humble and promising beginning could be witnessed on Diwali with majority areas in Delhi reporting much lesser noise and smoke till 6 PM, compared to previous years.

However, as the festive spirit picked up from 7 PM onwards, the hopes for a pollution-free Diwali got lost behind the growing echo of the crackers.

Pollution Levels on Diwali

Despite the much talked about the ban on firecrackers, pollution monitoring stations placed the capital in the ‘red zone’, indicating ‘very poor’ air quality. According to the stats available, on Diwali day around 7 pm, online indicators showed a rising trend in the volume of cancer-causing ultra-fine particulates PM2.5 and PM10 that are capable of entering the respiratory system and reach the bloodstream.

PM2.5 and PM10 are the extremely fine particulate matter with the digits representing their diameter in micrometers. They are a major component of air pollutants that threaten both, our health and the environment at large.

ALSO READ 10 Quick Facts About Delhi Pollution Problem

However, data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) suggested that the air quality in Delhi on Diwali was better than last year.

On Thursday, the Air Quality Index (AQI) value was 319 which placed the city in the ‘very poor’ category. However, the AQI value on Diwali last year was 431 and the city was placed in the ‘severe’ category.

According to data from SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research), the 24-hour rolling average at around 11 PM was revealed as 154 and 256 micrograms per cubic meter for PM2.5 and PM10 respectively.

According to SAFAR data, pollution levels were expected to soar between 11 PM and 3 AM.

Pollution Levels in the Morning after Diwali

As the night progressed, PM2.5 levels recorded a sharp rise in multiple areas in and around Delhi, with 15 times increase in areas like India Gate

As per data from Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), PM2.5 levels at 6 AM in,

India Gate – 911 microns (Normal level – 60 microns)

RK Puram – 776 microns (13 times more than usual)

Ashoka Vihar – 820 microns (14 times more than normal)

Anand Vihar – 617 microns (10 times more than normal)

A sharp rise was observed in the PM10 levels in the early hours of the morning after Diwali which suggest hazardous pollution levels in Delhi.

As per data from Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), PM10 levels at 6 AM in,

India Gate – 985 microns

RK Puram – 1083 (11 times more than usual)

Anand Vihar – 2402 microns (24 times more than normal. Normal level is considered around 100 microns)

While the ban on firecrackers imposed by the Supreme Court aimed to reduce pollution levels in Delhi, figures from pollution monitoring system paint an unhealthy picture with amplified levels of air pollution.

Official figures from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) are yet to be announced today. However, judging from the data available, it won’t be wrong to say that pollution levels in Delhi have increased post-Diwali.