The many carcinogens in the process on the other,

The pristine air of Delhi coerces one to move away from the hustle and bustle of the city as soon as an opportunity strikes. However, this implies confronting the inevitable demon of packing up for the journey. As soon as that dreaded hour strikes my mother conjures up a wide array of poly bags. Meticulously saved for centuries, they are meant to keep the soiled clothes and footwear away. Strict instructions are given to do the same however, seldom are they followed. Armed with this huge cache of poly bags, nestled deep inside the travelling bag I feel I am combat ready for the sojourn. This importance of plastics in our lives could be gauged from the fact that 15,342 tonnes of plastic waste is generated by India, out of which, 9,205 tonnes were reported to be recycled and leaving 6,137 tonnes uncollected and littered. Easy to manufacture and being economical, plastics have a wide range of applications being used in simple products like pens to more sophisticated machineries like spacecrafts. Despite the concerted efforts of the government and the scientific fraternity to mitigate this problem there has been no significant reduction in the volume of the plastic waste generated. Being highly durable they do not degrade easily and thus have myriad environmental consequences. On one hand both the manufacture and the destruction of plastic by incineration pollutes land, water and air producing many carcinogens in the process on the other, consumption of plastics by marine and land animals proves to be fatal. The images of venerable cow munching through the plastic waste or washed up waste on the beach are ubiquitous. Although recycling the waste helps to an extent yet it was imperative to find an alternative that amalgamates the properties of plastics that make them versatile along with making them biodegradable. This gave the birth to bioplastics.FIG 1-Bioplastics derived from wide range of renewable sourcesBioplastics comprise of a whole family of materials with different properties and applications and can be defined as the plastics derived from renewable sources. They can be divided into two broad categories according to European bioplastics: • Bio based plastics- plastics derived from biomass sources such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch or microbiota. • Bio-degradable plastics- plastics which disintegrate into organic matter and gases like CO2, etc. in a particular time.Commonly used bioplastics are based on cellulose, starch, glucose and oil. Specific techniques are then employed to convert these feedstocks into thermoplastic starch, polylactic acid(PLA), poly-3-hydroxybutyrate(PLH), polyamide 11 and biopolyethylene. ? Thermoplastic starch- This is the most significant and widely used bioplastic. Starch is derived from crops like potato and corn. Thermoplastic starch generally represents just one component of which starch based bioplastics are formed. The second part of the blends consists of water repellent and biologically degradable polymers like polyester, polyesteramids, polyesterurethanes or polyvinylalcohols. Starch based bioplastics find their application in products like bags, plant pots, cutlery etc.? PLA (polylactic acid or polylactide)- This is by far the most promising bioplastic for the near future. Its characteristics resemble conventional fossil fuel based plastics. PLA is mostly produced by the fermentation of starch from crops like corn, wheat, sugarcane into lactic acid followed by polymerization. Its blends have a wide range of applications including computer and mobile phone casings, biodegradable medical implants, foil, moulds, tins, cups, bottles and packaging devices. ? PHB (poly-3-hydroxybutyrate)- This is produced by bacteria processing glucose or starch and resembles petroplastic polypropylene. It is biodegradable and have advantages of being resistant to hydrolytic degradation. The application of PHB blends varies from the fabrication of glues to hard rubber. ? PA 11 (polyamide 11)- Produced from natural oil; this bioplastic is not biodegradable but decreases production of greenhouse emissions and consumption of non-renewable sources during its production. It is used in high-performance applications such as automotive fuel lines, pneumatic airbrake tubing, sports shoes etc. ? PHA (Polyhydroxyalkanoates)– Produced by bacterial fermentation of sugar and lipids. This find its utility majorly in the medical industry. It’s properties include more ductility and less elasticity than other plastics in addition to being biodegradable. ? Cellulose based plastics- which includes cellulose esters like cellulose acetate, nitrocellulose, and their derivatives- celluloid. ? Protein based plastics- most common sources include wheat gluten and casein for the production of different biodegradable polymers.? Bio-derived polyethylene- This is chemically and physically identical to traditional polyethylene. Ethylene can be derived from ethanol which in turn can be procured from fermentation of agricultural feedstocks such as sugar cane or corn.                                                                                                                            FIG 2 Different bioplastic                                                                                                                                      products by                                                                                                                              Newlight technologiesADVANTAGESBioplastics offer several advantages over traditional plastics. Some of them such as bio-based PE and PET save onto fossil fuels as they use renewable sources for their production and thus is carbon neutral. They can also be recycled. Moreover, biodegradability is another add on and provides additional means of recovery at the end of product’s life and hence helps in curbing pollution to an extent. Existing properties like durability, flexibility, heat resistance etc. have been also been significantly enhanced in bioplastics.OTHER SIDE OF THE COINBioplastics cannot be classified as a panacea for dealing with the status quo. Hence, it is critical to deliberate the drawbacks of using bioplastics as a substitute to make an informed decision. Manufacturing cost of bioplastics is higher as compared to conventional petroleum based plastics. This fundamental and formidable barrier is responsible for a low percentage share of bioplastics in the plastic market. PLA costs about 20 percent more and PHA is nearly double the price of traditional petroleum-based plastics. Even developed countries like United States lack facilities till date that could segregate bioplastics from normal plastics. This implies that these would contaminate the recyclable plastic waste or could end up in a landfill where it’s decomposition under anaerobic conditions produces a greenhouse gas, methane.CONCLUSIONIt is indispensable to surmount these challenges however simultaneously research should be focused on finding better alternatives. The problem of segregating bioplastics from normal waste can be overcome by color coding these environment friendly plastics. Public awareness is essential to avert the disposal of bioplastics in landfills where they might contribute to the production of greenhouse gases. Sound infrastructure should be developed so as to manage the bioplastics that end up at landfill and utilize the methane produced through them to meet the energy needs preventing wastage of resources at each step. One of the major contention with the widespread use of bioplastics is how much environment friendly are its manufacturing processes. Hence it is essential that the bioplastics are synthesized in a sustainable manner where there is limited carbon footprint. It is time that we pay heed to this issue with utmost exigency and no room for laxity. Let’s thus pledge to act now and reduce our plastic consumption than regret when the damage is irreparable. 

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