A research team led by Professor Kirtiraj K. Gaikwad and his MTech. (Packaging Tech.) student Lokesh Kumar to develop a pioneering alternative to synthetic plastics. The researchers at IIT Roorkee have found a way to address the issue of plastic pollution caused by single-use plastics used in the food packaging industry. An ethylene scavenging functional paper from pine needle waste has been developed. Pine needles contain 41 percent cellulose and have high cellulosic content.

Researchers at the Department of Paper Technology, Indian Institute of Technology, IIT (Roorkee) developed the substitute for single-use plastics packaging manufactured by 60 percent plant-based polysaccharides without using chemicals. This substitute for synthetic plastic is fully biodegradable within a week, and it is non-toxic and suitable for different packaging applications.

Plant-based plastic packaging material from IIT Roorkee
Professor Kirtiraj K. Gaikwad and his MTech. (Packaging Tech.) student Lokesh Kumar

The plant mucilage was mixed with gelatine (colorless and tasteless water-soluble protein).  This mixture solution went through 12- hour mixing, and the film was fabricated from the obtained solution. These films are malleable enough to be developed into various packaging forms, including shopping bags, pouches, sachets, etc.

This plant-based plastic will help to reduce plastic pollution commonly caused by synthetic plastics. The developed plastic was made without adding any chemical, which is widely used in plastic processing, said Lokesh Kumar. The demand for environment-friendly packaging materials has considerably increased because of environmental concerns regarding the use of synthetic petroleum-based plastics. The research work was funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) under an INSPIRE faculty grant.

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