Biodegradable plastic from banana peels

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With the advancement of human civilization, pollution has become a significant problem. Soil pollution, water pollution, land pollution, and air pollution are some of the different types of pollution affecting our planet. However, one common cause for all the different types of pollution is plastic and how its various forms.

When plastic and its particles forms accumulate in one place, it becomes a huge problem, and it leads to pollution. Plastic pollution affects wildlife, their habitats and also human beings. The main reason behind this devastating nature of plastic is the fact that it is non-biodegradable because of its persistent nature, its economical, ecotoxicological and ecological effects are all long term effects. And owing to its use in our daily lives, getting totally rid of plastic and its products is an extremely difficult task.

However, in the hope to find an alternative to this non-biodegradable plastic, Australian scientists have come up with a solution. Plastic made with banana peels is one of the best ways to curb the pollution caused by plastic.

What is the difference between normal plastic, and plastic made from banana peels?

Normal plastic made with the process of polymerisation is non-biodegradable in nature. It takes almost 500 years for them to decompose, and even after that, their residue is toxic and harmful for the environment. But unlike normal plastic, banana peel plastic is made from the banana industry’s agri-waste, and the result is non-toxic and biodegradable bioplastic.

The method to create biodegradable plastic from banana peels was first developed in UNSW located in Sydney, Australia. In this method, the stem of the banana plant is converted into nanocellulose and it is then used to create bioplastic. Because of the fact that only 12% of the total banana plant makes up for the actual bananas and the rest of the plant is considered to be a ‘waste’, it acts as an enticing opportunity to reduce the overall waste output and also use it as a raw material for industrial production of biodegradable plastic from banana peels.

How is biodegradable plastic from banana peels made?

As most of the banana plant’s pseudostem is made up of water, only around 10% of the actual stem is the solid material. This pseudostem is taken to the laboratory, cut into pieces, dried at extremely low temperature in an oven designed for drying and is then made into a very fine powder. Upon processing, the consistency of the resultant product is very similar to that of baking paper. 

This opens up a lot of new avenues where this can be used for food packaging. For example, depending on the number of layers used, this biodegradable plastic from banana peels can be used as containers to pack meat as well, just instead of foam, the material used to make the tray will be this biodegradable plastic.

Method of creating plastic with banana peels

Extraction of starch

In order to create plastic made up of banana peels, the peel of a banana needs to be removed and then cut into small pieces. Then they are dipped into a 0.5% Na2S2O5 solution. After this, the peels are then put in a beaker containing 800 ml of distilled water and is boiled for 30 minutes over a bunsen burner. Once, the peels are removed from the beaker, they are allowed to dry up by placing them between gauze pads for about 30 minutes. A hand blender is then used to puree the peels and attain a fluid paste. Upon filtration, the result is known as the banana peel starch.

Developing the biodegradable plastic

Around 25 ml of banana peel starch is taken an put in a 500 ml beaker. To this beaker, 3 ml acetic acid is added and stirred using a glass rod. After this, 2ml of propane-1, 2, 3-triol is added and the beaker is again stirred using a glass rod. The final mixture is then poured in a petri dish and is then baked in an oven at 60o for 30 minutes.  

Biodegradation test

The resultant biodegradable film of plastic made with banana peels was then cut into 2.5 cm x 2.5 cm and was then buried down at a depth of 5 cm. Two days post burial, the sample from the soil was taken out, washed and dried. The wight of the dried sample was recorded. 

Elongation experiment

The initial length of the biodegradable plastic from banana peels is measured and recorded. It was stretched enough to make sure its length was more than the initial length. This new length is once again measured and recorded. 

Overall Result

It was seen that the biodegradable plastic thus created can be composed in just 6 days. Another striking feature of this biodegradable plastic was that it could be stretched just like normal plastic. A 4.5 cm piece of plastic made from banana peels can be stretched up to 6.5 cm. Not only this, but this biodegradable plastic from banana peels can also be moulded which makes it possible for it to replace the petroleum plastic moulds which are quite commonly used in almost every household.

Conclusion

In a world where pollution caused by plastic is of the most rampant nature, biodegradable plastic goes a long way to curb these ill-effects of plastic. The behaviour of this biodegradable plastic is very much similar to that of normal plastic but disintegrates in almost 3 months leaving no trace behind. When used for food packaging, not only will it be an environment-friendly alternative, but will also keep the food fresher and better. Deaths caused to animals due to ingestion of plastic will get reduced to a huge extent. All in all, the world will become a less polluted place.

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