• Divyesh Dadhaniya

Challenges for biodegradable magic additives

The Indian government approves one more technology for single-use plastic (SUP) products in the bioplastics field, how would the compostable technology survive at a nascent stage? Before the technology matures, it will make internal competition rather than solving the SUP problem. Moreover, I see a few loopholes in the implementation guidelines and the biodegradable technologies available worldwide.

The government approved the biodegradable technology and released SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for issuing a certificate to manufacturers/sellers of biodegradable plastic carry bags and commodities. Here, all the plastic processors need to obtain the biodegradable certificate and complete all the formalities. The one who has already obtained a certificate for compostable plastics needs to do all the formalities again and invest a significant amount again in certification.

In contrast, the government can also do screening & testing in the market and approve the best biodegradable additives technology available in the market. Government can directly notify the polymer granule manufacturer/importer to add 1-2% magic additive before supplying to the SUP processing industry and can easily monitor them, as there are very few polymer manufacturers. Otherwise, thousands of processing industries need to obtain the certificate and invest a significant amount. Furthermore, it is difficult to monitor the processing industry regarding the usage of biodegradable additive quantity and quality after certificates are obtained.

If all the polymer granules available in the SUP market contain a biodegradable additive, there is no need of implementing a ban on SUP products and all the problems of plastic pollution can be solved easily. All the available SUP products would be made from either biodegradable or compostable material.

On the other hand, most of the magic additive technologies available in the market are oxo-degradable and leave microplastics at the end of the degradation process. This should not be allowed to be used in any circumstances. Otherwise, we need to make more efforts to look for another planet where humans can live.

One more technology available in the market claims that it does not leave any microplastics and degrades completely into CO2, water and biomass like compostable. But, it requires pre-treatment to activate the degradation process. Either it can be UV or Xenon-arc exposure for specified days or natural sunlight for specified months. Obviously, we are not going to throw plastic packaging after giving it the pre-treatment of UV or Xenon-arc. We need to depend on natural sunlight and it requires at least a few months to activate the degradation process depending on the terrestrial condition of the area. The pretreatment is human interference in the biodegradation process, which is contrary to the biodegradable definition.

In this method, the government need to identify the weather conditions of each part of India and implement guidelines for disposing of biodegradable plastic for each region. As India has a significant difference in weather conditions between North, East, South, West and middle regions of India. In addition, are we capable of giving natural sunlight exposure to biodegradable plastic waste for a few months? Otherwise, it will never degrade and behave the same as normal plastic. Even, at the dumping sites, the plastic waste will be coming continuously and piling up on each other and blocking natural sunlight within a few hours. Is the government bringing another law of spreading biodegradable plastic waste to natural sunlight for specified months before taking it to the dumping site? Is it feasible?

I would like to disclose that I am not opposing any technology here. I appreciate the technology if it is really sustainable and not harmful to the environment. I express my thinking and findings, I can not tolerate anything that harms our environment.