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Biodegradable plastics have the ability to be degraded by microorganisms present in the environment by entering the microbial food chain.

Plastic is the third most commonly used petroleum derivative in the world. More than eighteen trillion pounds of plastic have been produced to date. Out of this eighteen billion pounds of plastic flows into the ocean every year. It comes from a non-renewable source, contaminating and non-biodegradable (it can take more than 1000 years to decompose).

It often gets entangled in the marine animals we cherish and the fish we put on our plates. It appears in the table salt we use, and it’s even found in our own bodies. As more research on the impact of using so much plastic comes to light, consumers and manufacturers are left scrambling for an alternative to the material, and bioplastics have emerged as a potential alternative.

Two traits that make plastic so valuable are also what make it so dangerous: Plastic is cheap and hard to break down.

Bioplastics are made wholly or in part from renewable biomass sources such as sugarcane and corn, or from microbes such as yeast. Some bioplastics are biodegradable or even compostable, under the right conditions. Bioplastics made from renewable resources can be naturally recycled by biological processes, thus limiting the use of fossil fuels and protecting the environment.

Therefore, bioplastics are sustainable, largely biodegradable, and biocompatible. Today, bioplastics have become a necessity in many industrial applications such as food packaging, agriculture and horticulture. Bioplastics have also found their use in biomedical, structural, electrical, and other consumer products. With increasing demand for global plastic consumption, a lot of research is being dedicated toward exploring green materials and new ways to process them.

Biodegradable plastics can represent a valid solution to the problems of post-consumer disposal, which is more and more expensive both in economic and environmental terms.

Zeroplast Labs is a startup by Manush Labs and has recently won the Social Alpha and H&M Foundation’s innovation in waste management. The company is an innovation-driven, sustainable materials company founded by Aditya Kabra, developing 100% biodegradable alternatives to single-use, non-recyclable plastics.

With a mission of building a zero waste planet,  ZeroPlast labs works dedicatedly to tackle the major global problem of increasing plastic waste. The team at ZeroPlast has developed a Home/Soil compostable material that can replace single-use plastics. Zero Plast Labs is a science-based startup, founded in 2019 and backed by various associations such as the Department of Biotechnology, the Department of Science and Technology to name a few.

Zero Plast labs has developed a 100% Home/Soil compostable material that can replace single-use plastics

A single Indian generates around 6 kg of plastic waste per year, amounting to a total nationwide waste generation of 9.5 million tons. Only 9% is recycled, the rest is either burned, landfilled or thrown away in our water bodies. They last for around 500 years, contaminating the environment. The company not only tries and resolves this but is also helping Indian farmers. Indian farmers are left with around 350 million tons of crop residue after harvest.

As time is limited for sowing the next crop, the farmers have no choice but to burn this crop residue waste. Crop residue waste is sourced from farmers and agro-food industries and cellulose is extracted from it. Cellulose is blended with bio-based additives and binders using a proprietary CelluBlend Technology. The materials are used to develop flexible and rigid products. These products are readily biodegrade in the natural environment into organic matter which can be used as manure by farmers.

Most bioplastics are made with biopolymers, plasticizers, solvents, and sometimes an additional, additive.

These days, the biggest focus for ZeroPlast continues to be technology development. There are challenges throughout the value chain, from the products’ end of life to the testing itself. The various biomass that they test are seasonal and the qualities can vary widely, depending on the requirements of the end customers.

Currently, Zeroplast has been testing biomass including bamboo, rice, coffee grounds, and walnut shells, among others. The company focuses on both bioplastics and biocomposites. Bioplastics involve developing a material from scratch. Biocomposites, on the other hand, are less tech intensive. The environmental impact of bioplastics is often debated, as there are many different metrics for “greenness” (e.g., water use, energy use, deforestation, biodegradation, etc.). Bioplastic production significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and decreases non-renewable energy consumption.

Products at the end of their life cycle are readily biodegradable into organic matter which can be used as manure by farmers. 


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