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Issue 3/2018

  • Text
  • Bioplastics
  • Plastics
  • Biobased
  • Materials
  • Products
  • Packaging
  • Renewable
  • Castor
  • Injection
  • Compostable
bioplasticsMAGAZINE_1803

Report The journey of

Report The journey of bioplastics in the Indian subcontinent Bioplastics or biopolymers was a word never heard of on the Indian subcontinent, till a serial entrepreneur and environmentalist, Perses Bilimoria, founded Earthsoul India, in the year 2002. bioplastics MAGAZINE spoke to Perses, when he visited the editorial office in Mönchengladbach in April 2018. “My task was not only challenging, but almost born to die, as Indians did not have a care in the world, in those days, for waste disposal systems and had a passionate ongoing love affair, with synthetic polymers, or plastic.” In the early days of Earthsoul India, Perses visited one of the world’s pioneering bioplastic manufacturing companies, Novamont SRL (Mater-Bi) in Italy and at his first meet with the CEO, Catia Bastioli, was told that this venture was not a model for the Indian sub-continent at all, on account of raw material costing tenfold more than comparable fossilbased plastic. However Perses’ commitment, his passion for the environment and his persistent attitude, encouraged him over the next sixteen years to educate, tutor and plant the seed of biopolymers to the members of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Central / State Pollution Control Boards, Central Institute of Plastic Engineering & Technology (CIPET), Bureau of Indian Standards, various agricultural institutes, etc., on the merits and sustainability of this next generation material, an alternative to synthetic plastics made from fossil fuels resources and hence not renewable. “During the past sixteen years, India has witnessed a few start-ups in the bioplastic products arena,” Perses said, “and sadly a lot of fake” bioplastic and oxo-degradable product manufacturers, most of whom have tremendous political and financial clout in India to misrepresent and fool uneducated consumers.” Perses Bilimoria also mentioned that Professor Ramani Narayan of Michigan State University is one of the pioneering scientist of bioplastics globally and a company he is involved with, has its roots in India, but not yet a manufacturing facility. In the past years many states in India, today nearly 18 states, have actually banned fossil-based plastics, but sadly no implementation or policing laws in place, have made the ban a tool to fight widespread corruption and misinformation. “I must however mention that Maharashtra state have taken a lead in providing a focused vision of implementing the plastic ban,” Perses said. “Furthermore, the government of India has an extremely high rate of import duties on the raw materials imported which makes the products further unviable in a developing economy.” Unlike India’s neighbours China and Thailand which have set up a bioplastics association and research and development cells, along with various raw material manufacturing facilities, India is still a laggard, “although we have all the natural resources to produce the raw 46 bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/18] Vol. 13

Report By: Michael Thielen Jaydeep Mandal (cf. pp.32), Perses Bilomoria, and Michael Thielen materials for biopolymers. This is extremely unfortunate and will hopefully change very soon under our current government’s make in India initiative,” he added In the year 2010 India adopted the ISO 17088 standard for compostable biopolymers through its local Bureau of Indian Standards and this has encouraged a few compostable product manufacturers to enter the market in 2012. However, the market was still uneducated and resistant to the high pricing and availability of local raw materials. Fast forward to the year 2016 and the Ministry of Environment and Forests structured a plastic waste management law, which promoted the use of compostable bags below 50 µm thickness in all Indian states. As India is a federal structure this law was viewed with suspicion and 18 states have implemented it as of yet, a few with changes in the structure. Dr. Mohanty of CIPET (Central Institute of Plastics Engineering & Technology) the only test certification agency in India for products with ISO 17088, has mentioned that there is an urgent need for test protocols to be streamlined with regards to IS/ISO 17088. “It is unbelievable that still several raw materials with 60 % starch are blended with polyethylene and sold as compostable products currently,” Perses said angrily. Large multinationals like BASF, Cargill, sought entry into the Indian market with a fair amount of spends on education and awareness on certified compostable products, but the price factor still remained a very big problem. In the year 2017 the Indian Government reduced the import duties to 15 %, from prevailing 23 % and this saw a window of opportunity for new entrepreneurs, to query the pitch. “As the pioneer of bioplastics in India, my wish would be to have multiple international raw material manufacturers set up facilities in India and invest in the infrastructure, to create a model of self-local sustainability for the long term.” However, before this is embarked upon the market must mature and be ready to embrace bioplastics in the fields of retail, agriculture, medical amongst other industry. It is also critical to have an implementation and policing policy for genuine certified compostable products, which will be key to the success of all the new entrepreneurs in this industry. It will be interesting to see one of the fastest growing economies of the world embrace bioplastics and hopefully will soon become the fastest growing bioplastics market of the world. It is noteworthy to mention the fact that June 5th, 2018 – World Environment Day will be celebrated in India and the focus will be Reduction and Elimination of Plastic Waste. “My dream will then be fulfilled as India’s Bioplastic man, Perses concluded, still optimistic. www.earthsoulindia.com (Photo: MichaelThielen) bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/18] Vol. 13 47

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