Vikram Bhadauria, director of ALOK Masterbatches. Photo PSA

Last year, Packaging South Asia reported that ALOK made the first biodegradable film in India in collaboration with US-based Willow Ridge Plastics. Another project with Willow Ridge entailed a technology for producing recycling multi-layer films. The ready-to-use drop in biodegradable film product is closer to commercialization and is already in the beta testing phase in the US.

“Frankly speaking, we are still coming out of a lazy Diwali plus Christmas break and things are still in the process of catching pace. For a start, we have set up a full-fledged chromatography lab. With this one can go down to the lowest ppm level of elemental identification and analysis,” says Vikram Bhadauria, director of ALOK Masterbatches.

ALOK’s new chromatography lab

The chromatography lab at ALOK’s ATIC in Okhla will help in discovering toxins and trace metal chemicals. The company already had the XRF equipment for detecting the presence of heavy metals. Heavy metal is one part of the spectrum that makes up toxins and carcinogens. There are many other chemicals including dioxins and other pesticides that are capable of contaminating food and other products. With the new chromatography lab, the company now has the entire broad spectrum capacity to detect these unwanted chemicals which was not possible with the earlier XRF machine. Chromatography helps identify not only unknown chemicals, which may be good or bad for human consumption, but also a lot of bad chemicals that may go into a product accidentally if not intentionally. With the new testing capabilities, any form of food packaging or food product can be scanned for the presence of toxins or pesticides in it.

“Physical infrastructure-wise this is what we have recently added, while on the application front we are still concentrating on biodegradability and recyclability. Even with two states banning plastics, I still feel the ban is a knee-jerk reaction as I had said in our earlier interaction as well. At the end of the day, plastics will remain the most sustainable choice for a country like India where the population is looking for affordable solutions. One cannot force the entire population to use exotic materials such as wood or paper. They’re good in urban environments but for rural and semi-rural areas to begin consuming these products is not feasible.

“For instance, right now if one thinks of plastic, it is only to think about the plastic bag or a plastic straw. The poor straw has probably less than 5% of pollutants capable of harming the environment but it has received the maximum flak. This clearly shows that we have some misguided priorities. These bans will come and it is the people’s consumption behavior that pressurizes government bodies to enforce these bans,” Bhadauria explains.

Re-new, Re-nex and Re-bond

ALOK is working on several new projects for recycling plastics, which cannot as yet be discussed meaningfully. At the same time it has developed three products for recycling plastics that are now being commercialized widely. These products are Re-new, Re-nex and Re-bond. Re-new is to increase the recycling properties of any recyclable material; Re-bond increases the strength of the recycled material because typically the recycled product faces loss in mechanical properties; and the rebond product is used to upcycle the recycled plastic product.

Another issue with recycling is the odor of the material. AMB has come up with a new product called Re-nex to eliminate the pungent odor that sometimes emanates from recycled products. Re-nex uses a pleasant fragrance to mask the unpleasant odor or a chemical neutralizer which can neutralize the odor with the addition of some chemicals.

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The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 45% over the past four years. With orders in place, we expect another 20% capacity addition in 2024 and 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels are growing similarly. As the consumption story returns over the next six months, we expect demand to return and exceed the growth trajectory of previous years. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – and as shown by our analytics, our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

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