Environmental Friendly Polymers: Important for Sustainable Development
By Mehmil Khalid Kunwar
A planet with a clean environment and an endless supply of natural resources, who wouldn’t want that? The world is under ominous clouds due to the deleterious effects of climate change and the way it is turning this planet into an “unliveable place” for all the species. Things like sustainable development and eco-friendly processes are continuously gaining attention, overriding the importance of conventional practices.
To undermine the devastating consequences of global warming and increased awareness towards sustainable development goals, manufacturers are coming under pressure from consumers, customers, and regulatory bodies to incorporate sustainable methods in their operations. If you’re running a chemical plant, you would better know that no significant process gets an accreditation until it promises to deliver products that are environmentally responsible.
While there are numerous channels to adopt sustainable solutions in chemical operations (reducing and recycling plastic waste, or using renewable energy sources during processing/usage of plastic materials), the more appropriate and effective method is to promote the kind of R&D that includes sustainability in producing raw materials for plastic products.
That would actually solve the real big problem of plastics i.e. DECOMPOSITION !!
The environment friendly polymers are unique as they contain substances which are either bio-degradable or bio-based (made from renewable resources), thus eliminating the risk of global warming. Their environment friendly nature helps in reducing the emissions of CO2 due to decoupling from sources involving fossil fuels. In this way, the intended goal to use safe plastic can be fulfilled and the dangerous levels of carbon can be brought under control.
Tricky yet useful !!
Well, it would not be surprising to mention that bio polymers are not new and have been used for thousands of years in industry such as starchy and cellulosic polymers, but they have drastically seen an upward trend owing to the innovative technologies and modern chemical methods.
More and more researches are continually underway in order to make a safe transition towards green polymers. Various industries inter alia packaging, textiles, agriculture, building, foams, leather, are moving towards or have moved towards acquiring ‘green practices’. For example, several old processes have been reinvestigated, such as chemical dehydration of ethanol to produce “green” ethylene and therefore “green” polyethylene, polyvinylchloride, and other plastics. Along similar lines, some properties of bio-based polymers have found to be improved such as heat resistant Polylactic acid that is used in a wide range of applications. So, the time has come to brush your teeth with a bioplastic toothbrush. Hasn’t it?
Biodegradable polymers can be obtained from a myriad of sources, for instance, polysaccharides (starch, lignocellulosic products), proteins (plants and animal sources), microorganisms (polyhydroxy alkenoles), bio-based monomers (polylactids), and synthetic monomers(polycaprolactones). However, altering the source, interfering with the manufacturing process, or treating the waste plastics are some of the ways to obtain sustainability in polymer processes.