India’s National Institute of Marine Technology (NIOT) has developed a bioplastic film using Marine algae and PEG-3000 that could have a huge impact on limiting the use of non-biodegradable plastics and a game changer for the plastics industry.
According to reports, the bioplastic film is safe in the environment to decompose, leaving no toxicity. The physical and mechanical properties of bioplastic films are similar to those of conventional plastics.
NIOT scientists grew Kappaphycus alvarezii in the Mana Bay area, processed the algae and added the plasticizer polyethylene glycol (PEG-3000) to produce a bioplastic film that degrades naturally over a short period of time without producing any toxic waste. It can also be processed through normal food waste collection mechanisms. This research suggests that the commercial production of bioplastics from seaweed could be a game changer in the future.
In fact, red algae (kappaphycusalvarezii), a species of seaweed, is an important commercial source of carrageenan and other products and has a wide range of industrial applications. These algae are highly gelatinous and can grow cheaply in a short period of time (45 days) using only sunlight, without the need for fresh water or chemicals.
They are also a potential source of polymers, similar to terrestrial plant-based polymers, which can be used to make food packaging and transport bags, and are conducive to good oxygen and moisture permeability. Oxygen permeability and moisture permeability are two basic parameters of fresh produce packaging. Scientists at NIOT suggest that red seaweed could be an environmental saviour when it comes to replacing harmful plastics.
Especially in a populous country like India, where annual consumption of plastic packaging has exploded, biodegradable films could help reduce the harmful environmental impact of carelessly discarded plastic packaging.