Current Issue

Digital & Print Edition

Tackling the scourge of plastic with bags made of cassava starch

| 02/18/2017

From bags washing up on Bali's beaches to food packaging scattered across roads and clogging waterways in cities, Indonesia is facing a plastic waste crisis driven by years of rapid economic growth.

Now an entrepreneur from Bali, disgusted at the rubbish littering the famous holiday island, is trying to tackle the problem with alternatives to conventional plastic.

His company, Avani Eco, produces goods including cassava carrier bags, takeaway food containers made from sugar cane and straws fashioned from corn starch, which founder Kevin Kumala says biodegrade relatively quickly and don't leave any toxic residue.

"I'm an avid diver and surfer, and I'm out there seeing this plastic pollution in front of my very eyes," says Kumala, explaining why he decided to get into the business of biodegradable plastics, known as "bioplastics".

After witnessing the pollution around Bali, he insists tackling the problem is "something that needs to be done".

His project comes at a critical time for action on the issue. A 2016 report by the Ellen MacArthur foundation warned that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean, measuring by weight.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos this January, 40 of the world's biggest companies agreed to come up with cleaner ways to make and use the material.

In Indonesia, the waves of plastic flooding into rivers and oceans has been causing problems for years -- waterways in cities become clogged, increasing the risk of floods, as well death and injury to marine animals who become tramped or ingest plastic packaging.

The archipelago of over 17,000 islands is one of the worst offenders when it comes to marine littering, with US charity Oceans Conservancy estimating the country dumps the second-highest amount of plastic into the sea, behind only China.

'Hope for sea animals'

Kumala set up Avani Eco several years ago with its headquarters on Bali and a main factory on Java island, and the biodegradable goods went on sale in 2015.

The most popular product is the bags made from cassava -- an edible tropical root that is cheap and abundant in Indonesia -- with the words "I AM NOT PLASTIC" emblazoned on them.

The entrepreneur, who is a biology graduate, is happy to demonstrate the bags are not harmful -- he put some material from a cassava bag into a glass of hot water, watched it quickly dissolve, and then gulped down the resulting concoction.

"It gives hope to sea animals, they are no longer choking or ingesting something that could be hazardous," he said.

About three tonnes of the bags are produced a day at the Java factory and sold to businesses including shops and hotel groups, mostly in Bali and across Indonesia, but also to a growing number of companies abroad.

Being environmentally friendly does cost however, with a cassava bag typically about three US cents more expensive than a plastic bag.

The material for the other products Avani Eco sells are sourced in Indonesia, but some items are currently made in China as it is more cost effective to do so -- though this does add to their carbon footprint.

Kumala says the final products can biodegrade in just a matter of months -- and the bags disappear almost instantly in hot water -- unlike the years required for conventional plastic to break down.

However other bioplastics have long been on the market, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has expressed scepticism about the industry. The UN body concluded in a 2015 report that they tended to be more expensive and were unlikely to play a major role in reducing marine litter.

Bioplastics are defined as plastics made from materials such as corn starch and vegetable fats and oil, while common plastics are made from natural gas or petroleum.

UNEP senior official Habib El-Habr, who works on protecting the marine environment, said bioplastics were "innovative solutions" that could be part of a long-term solution, but added: "We don't know enough about this technology."

He said the UN body favoured the management of plastic through such strategies as working with big companies.

'Drowning in plastic'

Still Indonesia needs all the help it can get to deal with its waste. Current rubbish collection and disposal systems are inadequate to deal with rising plastic use.

Tuti Hendrawati Mintarsih, a senior official from Indonesia's environment ministry who deals with waste, conceded there was currently no government funding specifically aimed at reducing plastic waste.

However she said authorities were planning to implement a nationwide scheme compelling shops to charge for plastic bags this year, a scheme that has been trialled in other cities and has successfully reduced usage.

Despite the challenges, Kumala is upbeat that Indonesia's plastic scourge can be tackled and has plans to expand to other countries in the region.

He explained: "The whole of Asia is really drowning in an ocean of plastic pollution."

 

Source: The Hindu

RELATED HIGHLIGHTS

  • Tackling the scourge of plastic with bags made of cassava starch

    | 02/18/2017

    From bags washing up on Bali's beaches to food packaging scattered across roads and clogging waterways in cities, Indonesia is facing a plastic waste crisis driven by years of rapid economic growth. Now an entrepreneur from Bali, disgusted at the rubbish littering the famous holiday island, is ...More

  • World’s oldest water found, may hold clues to alien life

    | 12/20/2016

    Scientists have discovered the oldest water samples on Earth that date back to about two billion years and may hold clues to life forms living far beneath the surface of Mars or other alien planets. Researchers have known that water exists far below the groundwater that has been isolated from the w...More

  • Rs. 50,000 fine for airlines if planes empty human waste on air

    | 20/12/2016

    The menace of human waste being splattered on houses from airplanes while landing, today led the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to slap a fine of Rs. 50,000 on the airline whose aircraft empties toilet tanks on air. The NGT directed aviation regulator DGCA to issue a circular to all airlines, whose ...More

  • India to ban release of potent greenhouse gas

    | 10/15/2016

    Environment Minister Anil Dave has said India will no longer permit the release of HFC-23, a family of potent greenhouse gases, released when local companies produce the refrigerant HCFC-22. Mr. Dave is at Kigali, Rwanda, in the midst of thrashing out a deal with the developed countries to amend th...More

  • GST rate on polluting items may be higher : Jaitley

    | 10/15/2016

    Within days of India signing the Paris Agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said tax on environment unfriendly products will be “distinct” from others in the forthcoming GST regime so as to boost funds for climate financing. “The indirect tax regime t...More

  • British Petroleum abandons Great Australian Bight drill plans

    | 10/12/2016

    British oil giant BP Tuesday ditched plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight after reviewing its global exploration programme, a decision environmentalists hailed as a victory for the pristine wilderness. The company had wanted to drill four deep exploration wells in waters off the South Austr...More

  • NGT directs Delhi govt to shut pickling units in city

    | 10/06/2016

    NEW DELHI: Noting that pickling units fall under prohibited list of industries as per Master Plan 2021, the National Green Tribunal has directed the Delhi government to shut down such industries units located in the national capital with immediate effect. Pickling is a metal surface treatment u...More

  • Paris climate pact to enter into force on Nov. 4

    | 10/06/2016

    The Paris Agreement on climate change will enter into force on November 4, as enough countries have signed onto the landmark accord to bring it to the emissions threshold that will trigger its implementation, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said. “This is a momentous occasion,” Secretary-Gener...More

  • Paris Agreement to enter into force in November

    | 10/06/2016

    In a historic vote held at the plenary session of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, a majority of the members voted in favour of ratifying the Paris Agreement. The vote paved the way for the entry into force of the Agreement - to keep global warming levels less than 2°C above pre-industrial level...More

  • Justin Trudeau unveils Canada carbon price plan for 2018

    | 10/04/2016

    Canada will impose a national minimum carbon price in 2018 in order to meet its Paris accord commitment to slash greenhouse gas emissions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “All Canadian jurisdictions will put a price on carbon pollution by 2018... To get there, the government will set a fl...More

  • Indian NGO bags UN climate award for clean energy project

    | 10/04/2016

    An Indian NGO, Swayam Shikshan Prayog, has bagged the UN climate award this year. The NGO, which trains women to become clean energy entrepreneurs across Maharashtra and Bihar, is one of the 13 projects to be recognised at the forthcoming UN climate summit in Marrakesh in November. In an official r...More

  • Air pollution to blame for traffic accidents: study

    | 10/04/2016

    London: Air pollution may be responsible for hundreds of car accidents a year, as toxic air may impair driver fitness, a new UK study has found. Researchers from the London School of Economics divided the UK into a grid of 32 areas each covering about 7,700 square kilometres and mapped accidents to...More

  • Will the Paris agreement be ratified by end of 2016?

    | 10/09/2016

    If there is one question that climate treaty watchers are speculating on the world over, it is this: Will the Paris agreement be ratified by end of 2016? The treaty that was negotiated at the UN summit in Paris last year can enter into effect only 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for ...More

  • Elephant seals to measure changing ocean currents

    | 08/31/2016

    Scientists have used a group of elephant seals to observe changes in the circulation of the world’s oceans reveals a recent research.The international researchers led by the University of Tasmania’s Dr. Guy Williams, used sensors attached to 20 elephant seals to measure water temperature...More

  • UK air quality shows little improvement over past 20 years, says study

    | 08/30/2016

    There has been little improvement in air quality over the past 20 years as transport planners focus on preventing road deaths, according to a study. Two university academics set out to try to understand why there has been little improvement in air pollution concentrations from road transport since t...More

  • Global warming is melting the Greenland Ice Sheet, fast

    | 08/27/2016

    A new study measures the loss of ice from one of world’s largest ice sheets. They find an ice loss that has accelerated in the past few years, and their measurements confirm prior estimates. As humans emit heat-trapping gases, we expect to see changes to the Earth. One obvious change to be on ...More

  • India ranked 77 in disaster risk index of the world

    | 27/08/2016

    While Bangladesh is among the top five countries at risk of disaster, India ranks 77 on the World Risk Index - marginally better positioned than Pakistan which is placed at 72. The index is part of the World Risk Report 2016 released on Thursday by the United Nations University Institute for Environ...More

  • Human-induced climate change began earlier than previously though

    | 08/25/2016

    Continents and oceans in the northern hemisphere began to warm with industrial-era fossil fuel emissions nearly 200 years ago, pushing back the origins of human induced climate change to the mid-19th century. The first signs of warming from the rise in greenhouse gases which came hand-in-hand with t...More

  • Study measures methane discharge from Arctic permafrost

    | 08/25/2016

    The project, led by UAF researcher Katey Walter Anthony, studied lakes in Alaska, Canada, Sweden and Siberia where permafrost thaw surrounding lakes led to lake shoreline expansion during the past 60 years. Using historical aerial photo analysis, soil and methane sampling, and radiocarbon dating, th...More

  • Deforestation brought on decreased precipitation in Ganga Basin, NE India

    | 08/24/2016

    Using satellite data and regional climate models, IIT Bombay researchers have found that deforestation (converting woody savannah to crop land) in northeast India and north-central India has led to a 100-200 mm reduction in summer monsoon rainfall in these two regions. The land use information is ba...More

  • New bits of knowledge into the relationship amongst erosion and tectonics in the Himalayas

    | 08/24/2016

    Earth's climate interacts with so called surface processes -- such as landslides or river erosion -- and tectonics to shape the landscape that we see. In some regions, the sheer force of these processes has led scientists to believe that they may even influence the development of tectonics. An i...More

  • Off South Africa s coast, great white sharks are threatened

    | 08/23/2016

    On the edge of a boat off this coastal village, Michael Rutzen stubs his cigarette into a soda can and stares pensively out to sea. Extensive research by Rutzen and his marine biologist partner, Sara Andreotti, has found that great whites off the South African coast are rapidly heading for extinctio...More

  • More than 80,000 cautioned to empty seething California rapidly spreading fire

    | 08/21/2016

    An evacuation order has been issued for over 80,000 people due to a massive wildfire that has ripped through rural communities outside Los Angeles California.Authorities on Wednesday warned 82000 residents in San Bernardino County to evacuate from the fast-moving fire that began on Tuesday in Cajon ...More

  • Scotland’s wind turbines cover all its electricity needs for a day

    | 08/21/2016

    High winds on Sunday were strong enough to power the equivalent of all of Scotland’s electricity needs for the day, according to environmentalists.The Met Office issued a yellow “be aware” weather warning covering much of the country as wind speeds reached 115mph on the top of the ...More

  • Seventh-Largest Greenhouse Gas Emitter Becomes First Major Economy To Formally Accept The Paris Agreement

    | 08/21/2016

    When 175 countries and parties officially signed the Paris Agreement on Earth Day this year, it marked a critical next step in the fight to stop climate change. But signing the agreement in front of the cameras at the UN is only the first step. Approval of it back at home is another altogether. Why ...More

  • Climate change alters the rules of sperm competition in the sea

    | 08/19/2016

    Researchers from the University of Exeter have shown that increasing ocean acidification, brought about by human made carbon emissions, reduces sperm performance in a species of sea urchin, slowing down sperm in future ocean conditions. Interestingly, they found that different males were affected to...More

  • Neonic’ bug sprays awful news for honey bees: study

    | 08/18/2016

    A widely-used class of insecticides called neonicotinoids has contributed to the large-scale and long-term decline of wild bees, according to research unveiled Tuesday.A study covered 62 species from 1994 to 2011, examining the impact of exposure to the pesticide, which was used to treat oilseed rap...More

  • Sewage sludge could make great sustainable fertilizer

    | 08/17/2016

    Phosphorus is a key supplement for every living being. At the point when lacking in the eating routine, it seriously bargains human wellbeing, and when inadequate in horticulture, it confines crop profitability. Without phosphorus, there can be no sustenance creation.  As the wellspring of phos...More

  • Methane leaks: A new way to find and fix in real time

    | 08/16/2016

    The technique led to the detection and immediate repair of two leaks in natural gas pipelines in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest. The approach could inform strategies for meeting new federal limits on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. Methane emissions have spiked in rec...More

  • Global nitrogen footprint mapped for first time

    Nitesh | 29/01/2015

    The international collaboration, led by the University of Sydney's Integrated Sustainability Analysis team in the Faculty of Science, found developing countries tend to embody large amounts of nitrogen emissions from their exports of food, textiles and clothing. Australia is one of the few wealt...More

  • Exposure to airborne particulate matter during pregnancy

    Nitesh | 10/30/2015

    The study, by researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati, identified a 19 percent increased risk, with the greatest risk when high exposure occurred during the third trimester of pregnancy. Diesel exhaust particles make up a substantial portion...More

FREE DOWNLOAD

SCIENCE TOADY MAGAZINE

Facebook Reveals Its First Full-Size Internet Drone. Facebook Reveals Its First Full-Size Internet Drone

GET IT NOW !