Mukul Sareen, Director of Business Development at HiTech Group, in an interaction with Sudhakar Singh, Editor, Industry Outlook, shares his views on the opportunities and challenges in manufacturing bio-compostable plastic. Hi-Tech International is the first company in India to manufacture a plant-based bio-polymer – Dr. Bio.
Depletion of petroleum reserves is providing an impetus to the global biopolymers market and the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 19 per cent till 2025. How do you see the current evolution of the biopolymer market in India? What are the major factors contributing to its growth?
The biopolymer market is at a very nascent phase in India primarily for two reasons - one is the production capacity of biopolymers in India and secondly it is the awareness or the cost implications. One has to really understand that the acquisition is still taking place. More and more work has to be done to reach out to the brand owners and organizations. More regulations have to be brought in to support the industry.
Today, a lot of the biopolymers are mostly imported from different countries around the world. There is hardly any substantial production happening in the country. As a biopolymer company, we've just launched our product line wherein we have a capacity that goes to around 7000 tonnes per annum right now. We are going to make around 31,000 bags in this financial year.
How do you see the Indian plastic industry moving from recyclable to bio-compostable plastic? Could you elaborate more on the plant based biopolymer which you are manufacturing?
If you look at the macro market scenario right now, India consumes close to around two to four kgs per capita per annum, which is a very big number of plastic consumption per person. And we all know that we have generic problems of non-recycling system and we don't really have avery big ecosystem to recycle the plastic. We need more modern recycling systems that are available in different parts of the world.
The government of India has also made some regulations on industrial process where 20% of the plastic needs to come from a recycled source. However, this is still a potent challenge looking at how much of the waste is already out there.
Today, we are buying everything prepackaged. Our vegetables, fruits, grains, chips, everything that we are buying, we're buying in disposables now. Moreover, use of paper is depleting our water resources. We now have alternate solutions that need to be made bio-compostable that can be laminated with paper so that coffee can be sold or water droplets can be pulled in this and that will not hamper the quality of paper.
There are many types of biodegradable plastic. One of the biodegradable products is called Oxo biodegradable, which means that a plastic bottle will break down in the presence of sunlight. But with the Oxo biodegradable we will be eventually having another potent process of selecting one set of classes which will be even harder.
Second type is enzyme based biodegradables which start disintegrating after a long period of time. Now the third kind of plastic is the one we are talking about. It disintegrates within three months to two years or three years depending on the conditions and the environment around it.
If we look at the global market, the focus is majorly on the bio-based content over biodegradability. How do you see this from the India market perspective?
Bio-based and biodegradable are definitely two different terms. Biodegradable does not necessarily mean that it is bio-based. Bio-based is basically a product that comes 100% from natural plant based materials. Bio-based obviously means that it has gone through the lifecycle of a plant and as a delivery mechanism, which has now been polymerized and converted to a bio polymer. It is what is coming from the ground and going back to the ground, from a seed to a plant to a polymer and then back to the soil as a nutrient.
Plastics made out of polyethylene or polyester like PET bottles or PVC can also be made biodegradable, and that biodegradable plastic can break down into small shapes. So, for instance, a normal plastic bag may take between 500 to 1000 years to degrade. But this material takes only a few months or a couple of years to degrade.
How do you see this market evolving in the near future and which new technologies do you foresee being implemented?
Primarily, we are working on applications that are of essence and simple to use, which is where most of our emphasis is generated. At the end of the day, it will all go through a recycling system and a junkyard. And if we have a compostable plastic in place, we should be able to get more value to our system by using such plastic.
Moreover, the strength of our bio polymers is almost the same as the normal plastic that's in various different grades suited for different applications that can be utilized in the marketplace. And it offers an advantage to the users because it sends a message to customers that they are contributing to sustainability. It is actually taking us on a path of sustainable change.