INDIA - Scientists at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Matunga have developed an oxo-degradable polymer which they claim decomposes in just two months when exposed to sunlight.
This product was developed by combining synthetic polymer granules with a catalyst which breaks the transparent plastic down into smaller chains in the presence of sunlight.
The scientists would not reveal the metals that catalyst was derived from because they are in the midst of applying for a technology patent, and only stressed that it is not from toxic heavy metals.
Professor RN Jagtap, who heads the polymer and surface engineering university department, said, "Plastic does not degrade for years because it is chemically inert. Indiscriminate use of the polymer resulting in litter affects the environment and pollutes the earth.”
With this new technology, the pollution problem can be tackled: "The drop in molecular weight gives micro-organisms (present in the soil) access to carbon and hydrogen, making plastic a nutrient for bacteria and fungi to feed on that results in complete degradation," Professor Jagtap explained.
The team of scientists now plan to undertake field trials after the monsoon season to test whether the oxo-degradable plastic crumbles and gets eaten up in two months.
While welcoming the development, Anil K. Bhowmick, Director of Indian Institute of Technology – Patna, cautioned, "Oxodegradable plastics degrade in the presence of ultraviolet rays and heat and can also be recycled with normal plastics. The disadvantage is that there are certain metallic elements that carry risk of environmental pollution. Hence, their nature and level of use are to be properly controlled."