Plastic for packaging has been under scanner from various segments due to its non-degrading nature which has a detrimental impact on the environment. In 2011, the government decided to ban plastics used for tobacco packaging which raised the question of sustainability of plastics in a market where recycling has not been taken up in a big way. This resulted in green packaging initiatives gaining prominence with packaging companies opting for innovative polymers and additives which enhance the degradability of plastics used for packaging. One such company providing environmental friendly bags and films
is Delhi-based Symphony Polymers which offers oxo-biodegradable polymers for food and textile packaging. Commencing operations in 2004, the company has its production unit including film extrusion lines in Chennai and a regional office in Bangalore.
Symphony Polymers manufactures plastic bin liners, plastic hanger bags, and oxo-biodegradable plastic bags which are environment friendly and are easy to carry, while being safe and hygienic. Mahendra Jain, director of Symphony Polymers, says, “We aim to provide the most effective business solutions in terms of competitive prices for various products including quality, delivery and services.” Due to its very high molecular weight, polyethylene (PE) has hightensile strength, toughness and percentage of elongation that are advantages for applications butitremains in the environment for decades without disintegrating. This is addressed through the use of an oxo-biodegradable additive which enables the polymer to degrade by exposure to oxygen. “Our products will disintegrate wherever there is oxygen. In 2004, when we started production, there was little awareness about such a polymer. We introduced this conceptin India and have seen wide acceptance in various applications which earlier used standard PE,” says Jain.
Wide area of applications
The oxo-biodegradable plastic bagsby the company find major applications in the food industry. These bags are hygienically processed and are used to carry various edible items. Symphony Polymers manufactures these monolayer bags in various sizes and gauges, which suit the needs of its customers. These bags find usage in various forms such as in canteens, hotels, home or allied places. The bags are used to pack bread, poultry, sandwiches, vegetables and milk products. Apart from food applications, these bags are used in biomedical waste collection, as garbage bags and for textile products. “Oxo-biodegradable polymers are effective and the economics of the new plastics is based on oxo-degradation and have become well known fortheirtotally degradable nature.Aspecial additive is included in the manufacturing process of conventional plastic, which changes the behaviour of the plastic. This plastic then undergoes controlled degradation through the incorporation of ‘prodegradant’ additives that can trigger and accelerate the degradation
process,” adds Jain.
The company conducts various international standard tests like ASTM International, before releasing the product. “Our products are kept at a stable environment and temperature where the degradation starts within eight to ten months. Degradation, thus highly depends on the physical environment which our customers expose their products to, but the exact degrading time would be difficult to ascertain,” says Jain.
The road ahead
Oxo-biodegradable plastics are entirely compatible with the principle of recycling and will not cause problems during the process. Symphony Polymers has pioneered the research and development of oxo-biodegradable plastic and claims that its technology is superior to earlier technologies available in other parts of the world. “The best part of this technology is that, you do not have to change any of your machinery or the system to manufacture the same,” says Jain.
While such innovative concepts in packaging carry many positives, price remains a concern for the company. “Our products have found encouraging response till date, but are marginally higher priced due to the addition of the oxo-biodegradable additive.” However, Jain is optimistic about the future as many companies are waking up to the environmental benefits of using biodegradable packaging which will not only lower carbon footprint, but costs can be recovered faster in the long run.