Monday June 17, 2019
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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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Experts Demand for Right Execution of Anti-Pollution Steps

There are policies and programmes to deal with air pollution

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Experts, Demand, Right, Pollution
With polluted air raising health risks in a large part of India, the situation is critical to say the least. Pixabay

 Though nine Indian cities figure among the World Health Organisation’s 10 most polluted global destinations, lack of effective implementation of pollution control measures remains a major challenge, say experts.

The Narendra Modi government’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which ensures LPG connections to women from poor families, has helped lower indoor pollution. But vehicular emissions and stubble burning in the northern states remain major contributors to air pollution.

With polluted air raising health risks in a large part of India, the situation is critical to say the least and assumes significance as we get ready to celebrate the World Environment Day on Wednesday. The United Nation’s has set “air pollution” as the theme for this year’s celebrations.

“There are policies and programmes to deal with air pollution. But there are issues with their management,” said Anand Kumar, Associate Director (Environment and Climate Change) at IPE Global, a consultancy providing technical assistance and solutions for equitable development and sustainable growth in developing countries.

Experts, Demand, Right, Pollution
Nine Indian cities figure among the World Health Organisation’s 10 most polluted global destinations. Pixabay

The government has dealt with vehicular emission through several policies, but stubble burning, which leads to smog and high level of pollutant in the national capital during winters, has not been looked at properly.

Last Diwali, in several parts of Delhi concentration of PM 2.5 exceeded 1,500 µg/m3, way above the “severe” category and could result in respiratory problems to even healthy people, said Kumar.

Environmentalist C.R. Babu stressed the need to raise public awareness. “Technology cannot help much in the fight against air pollution. The natural sinks (to absorb pollutant) have either filled or have been eliminated, while sources of pollution are increasing. How many vacuum cleaners or sprays can be used to remove dust? People’s participation is a must,” he said.

Also Read- BSES Launches First Electric Vehicle Charging Station in City

Babu suggested creation of green buffers as one way. “We need multiple patches of vegetation across the urban areas. Only a carpet of greenery can absorb dust and pollutant,” he said. (IANS)