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PACKAGING

Bio-Lutions to convert agri waste in Mandya to make food-grade packaging
Saturday, 03 June, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
Germany-based Bio-Lutions is now working with a farmers’ cooperative society in Karnataka’s Mandya district to convert agricultural waste into biodegradable and food-grade packaging products.

It sources agricultural excesses, such as sugarcane leaves, banana stems, tomato plants, etc. From the district, which accounts for four crops in a year, making it ideal to source raw materials.

The company, funded by Deutsche Entwicklungs - und Investitionsgesellschaft mbH (DEG) with 5,00,000 Euro,as a part of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (BMZ) up-scaling programme.

Initially, the company will have two product lines. One is a bio-degradable option of paper packaging, while the other is a variety of biodegradable tableware for consumers.

It has already tied up with a major online supermarket and food delivery service provider to opt for environment-friendly and safe packaging at competitive market prices.

The company has set up a production plant on the outskirts of Bengaluru. Here, piles of banana stems, pineapple leaves and water hyacinth plants sourced from farmers in Mandya are fed into the machine with water.

The end result is 100 per cent natural, recyclable and biodegradable packaging and tableware.

This is the first India plant of Bio-Lutions,which is headquartered in Hamburg and was set up with Indian partners.

The company uses a first-of-its-kind technology to convertal most any agricultural excess that has fibre into packaging and disposable tableware.

“Imagine tomato trays made from tomato plants, coffee capsules made from agricultural waste of pitted coffee sherry, or perhaps, cookie packaging made from wheat straw,” said Eduardo Gordillo, chief executive officer and founder, Bio-Lutions.

Following a slew of trials and errors that spanned 18 months,Gordillo and Richard Herding, the company’s co-founder, re-engineered the machine to produce a different fibre. The bio-degradable packaging solution was a combination of wheat straw and water, which is safe.

Conventional technologies using paper or agro-fibres to make packaging need to convert it into cellulose. This process uses chemical additives, bleaching agents, additional binders, with a large quantity of water and energy.

“In our case, the organic matter is dewatered and is ground mechanically into micro- or nano-sized fibres. These are self-binding when mixed with water, and can be processed into various forms of packaging and tableware, with no chemical additives,” said Gordillo.

The Indian market holds great potential for environmental- friendly and affordable packaging and disposable tableware.

“According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), 60 cities in India produce over 5.6 million tonne of plastic waste annually, of which about two million tonne are uncollected and littered. Therefore, non-biodegradable waste require surgent alternatives,” Gordillo said.

“With this technology, the end-user can add it to their home compost because it degrades effortlessly. It is estimated that 32 million tonne of agricultural excess is burnt in India annually and causes air pollution,” he added.

“Now we will provide farmers a profitable way to dispose agricultural excess and diversify their source of income,” said Gordillo.

Kurian Mathew, managing director and partner, Bio-Lutions India, stated, “Given that agriculture is a primary source of income, it is a win-win situation for farmers and the company.”
 
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