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IISc Researchers Develop Substitute for Plastic Using Agricultural Stubble

Researchers at the Department of Material Engineering, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore have found a substitute for single-use plastics (SUP) manufactured by concocting cellulose extracts and non-edible oils extracted from agricultural stubble. This alternative of single-use plastic is biodegradable, non-toxic, and leak-proof.

It will eradicate a significant chunk of pollution-churning sources, the institute claims. The extracts from the agricultural stubble are mixed with di-isocyanate compounds and toluene. This mixture solution undergoes 8-hour heating and 12-hour cooling, which generates sheets of polyurethane. These sheets are malleable enough to be developed into cutlery, containers, and carry bags.

The research was led by professors Suryasarathi Bose and Kaushik Chatterjee, who led a team of student research associates to create this cutting-edge alternative to single-use plastic. “Such alternatives can act as a huge shift to the paradigm, especially in packaging sectors who are the largest consumers of SUP. It will also help in managing the landfills that are burgeoning with SUPs,” Bose told The Hindu.

The team also included Indranil Chakraborty and Pritiranjan Mondal, who worked as associates with Prof Bose and Prof Chatterjee. The researchers have filed for a provisional patent and are now working to develop a plastic alternative with oil other than castor oil, such as Jatropha oil or Neem oil.

According to a report by the Central Pollution Control Board, in just five years, the gram per capita generation of plastic has jumped from roughly 700 to almost 2500. Unfortunately, only a tiny amount of this plastic generated is recycled, and the rest is administered into the environment through various polluting catalysts.

Indian states, especially Delhi, also grapple with another issue that chokes Delhi’s Air Quality Index (AQI) to hazardous levels – agricultural stubble burning. Every winter, the city is blinded by thick layers of smoke emanating from stubble burning. IISc’s research can help solve these problems, the institute says.

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