In an era where plastic and plastic-based products have become a major environmental hazard for the world, three students from Indian Institute of Technology – Madras (IIT-M) have come up with ‘an eco-friendly alternative to package edible and non-edible products.’

The three, R Praneeth Srivanth, B Shantini and Abhishek Vinakollu, are students of the Chemical Engineering department of IIT-M who have developed a printable three thin-layered sachet which is made from cellophane.

IIT-Madras Students Develop An Eco Friendly Alternative For Plastic Packaging

The cellophane sachet, if taken up, can serve as an eco- friendly replacement for widely used plastic and aluminium packages.

The sachets are made from regenerated cellulose which means starch, polyvinyl alcohol, a water-soluble synthetic polymer, and a natural vitamin-like molecule, all of which are non-hazardous.According to Praneeth, he and his team worked for four months on the material for sachets as they needed something strong, flexible, light in weight and water-resistant.

They also skimmed through many research papers on biodegradable material and existing eco-friendly packaging products before zeroing in on cellophane.

As cellophane is regenerated cellulose, it makes the product strong and thus serves as a strong alternative to plastic.

The three students were guided by a senior professor R Dhamodharan, who recommended them to make cellophane as the innermost material because it had all the properties of polyethylene.

For the middle layer, the students used cellophane with a coat of aluminium, keeping it to minimum.The outermost layer in turn needed a material that was not only strong, but also flexible while possessing a quality to make colourful prints.

This was the hardest area to work upon and after much research, the team decided to use a combination of starch, polyvinyl alcohol and a natural vitamin-like molecule and use a polyurethane-based adhesive to put the thin films together.

The final product is 50 microns thick (one micron is one billionth of a metre) but costs much more than the existing plastic packets.Though a little expensive, this alternative is 100% biodegradable and safer for the environment.It is reported that over the years plastic and aluminium sachets’ disposal has become a major problem for India with a production of about 28 billion plastic sachets a year by the consumer products sector here.

Check out the infographic: Plastic Vs Biodegradable

Plastic Vs Biodegradable

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