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Phasing out plastic: what is the alternative?

Compostable, eco-friendly bagasse is great for replacing plastic when you need disposable plates, cups or takeout boxes. Bagasse is made from the pulp that is leftover when the juice is extracted from sugarcane or beets. It can be used for other purposes, such as a biofuel.

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Nov 26, 2019, 12.07 PM IST
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Compostable, eco-friendly bagasse is great for replacing plastic when you need disposable plates, cups or takeout boxes. Bagasse is made from the pulp that is leftover when the juice is extracted from sugarcane or beets.
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By Rajesh Khosla

Although plastic as we know it was introduced less than 100 years ago, it has quickly become a staple in our everyday lives. From light switches to cars to computers, plastics are unavoidable. Unfortunately, this explosion in plastic products has been devastating for our environment.

Synthetic plastics are not biodegradable, which means that once they're manufactured, they're going to be with us in our landfills and oceans for hundreds if not thousands of years. The effect of plastic on marine life has been researched about in recent years, and the enormity of the impact of plastic on other forms of life is just beginning to be understood.

While we have let plastic invade our lives, because of the convenience it brings to us, there is also a whole laundry list of toxic chemicals that leach into our environment due to the manufacture and careless disposal of plastics. Recycling can help alleviate some of these problems, but the best way to protect the earth from plastics is to replace them with more eco-friendly alternatives like glass.

It's time to make a change. One of the best alternatives to plastics is glass. Glass has always been the safest and the most viable option for the packaging and use of food and liquid. Glass can be recycled multiple times, so it doesn't have to end up in landfills. It is cost-effective, considering its durability and recyclability.

Why is Glass the Next Alternative?

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With the government deciding to phase out plastic by 2020, the demand for glass is expected to witness a boom in the upcoming years. Glass Manufacturers are hence setting up new trends in the industry by leveraging technology to create innovative products that will help meet the already existing demand more efficiently.
Some of them include:
  • New tempering method for strengthening glass containers
  • Creating lightweight containers in different geometric shapes
  • Using newer technologies like Single-stage forming to produce thinner but stronger glass containers
  • Developing a coating on the surface of the glass to avoid strength loss
  • Creating heat-resistant Pyrex glass
  • Energy consumption by glass when compared to other packaging alternatives:
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The glass industry faces a major share of its challenges in attaining its goals, however the technological advancements in this sector are helping manufacturers stay ahead of the game. Precomptive R&D focused on solving the challenges of the industry will lead to the developments of new opportunities and energy efficient production strategies.

Some of them include:
  • Smart glass bottles and containers whose colour changes depending on the liquid temperature (medicines, wines, perishable products, etc.)
  • Interactive drinking glass is when a user starts filling a glass, the other empty glasses come closer to get filled too and then go back to their initial position. Owners of the glasses can refuse to fill their glasses by simply bringing back the glass on its initial position as soon as the glass starts to move.
  • Photovoltaic sunroof a replacement for regular car sunroofs that includes solar PV cells to produce electricity. This also helps to recharge the vehicle's battery in electric cars
  • Glass Mirrors that will help assess the health condition of the person standing in front of it.
  • Glass jewellery assessing the cardiac rhythm and body temperature

While glass is the most suitable eco-friendly substitute for plastics, there are other alternatives that you can explore for domestic use.

Bagasse
Compostable, eco-friendly bagasse is great for replacing plastic when you need disposable plates, cups or takeout boxes. Bagasse is made from the pulp that is leftover when the juice is extracted from sugarcane or beets. It can be used for other purposes, such as a biofuel. It can also be pressed into a cardboard-like material to make waterproof food containers. It is biodegradable in a compost pile.

Bioplastics
Sometimes, it's hard to find non-plastic versions of the products you need, so when you have to rely on plastics, try to find eco-friendly ones. PLA or CPLA is made from corn instead of petroleum while taterware is a similar material made from potato starch. Both are biodegradable in industrial compost sites, although some varieties are not compostable in home compost bins. Many companies are also now starting to manufacture bottles and packaging using PLA or other plastics made from non-petroleum sources.

(The writer is President and CEO, AGI glaspac.)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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