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Manioc to the Rescue in the Fight Against Plastic Pollution

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Manioc to the Rescue in the Fight Against Plastic Pollution

Plastic trash increasingly pollutes rivers and fills landfills. In Jakarta, two men are on a mission to offer alternatives that could have an impact on the environment and the economy, not just in Indonesia.

The stench is unbearable. The midday heat is beating down on the landfill near the Indonesian town of Tangerang in the greater Jakarta area. Huge cockroaches scurry across the 35-hectare (86.4-acre) site and new trucks arrive every minute, bringing tons of new garbage. Excavators pile it higher and higher. Between them, several hundred trash collectors toil under the merciless blazing sun. They look for plastic bags and plastic parts they can resell.

Sugianto Tandio shakes his head as he looks at the huge amount of plastic trash. "Each day, about 1,500 tons of solid waste comes here and 15 to 20 percent of it is plastic", says the engineer.

But conventional plastic takes an estimated 500 to 1,000 years to decompose. The plastic trash being piled up here in Tangerang will remain an environmental problem for many generations to come.

Plastic in fish

"Even today, a third of the fish in the ocean contains microplastics. Just imagine: every time you eat seafood it's like you have three fish in front of you and you have to decide, which fish you want to eat and which one you should avoid." It is not a problem we can leave to our children to solve, Tommy Tjiptadjaja thinks. "It is really all up to us. Our generation is the generation that has to take action."

Indonesians collect garbage in Tangerang as the nation's environmental problems are bound to affect many generations

Together with Tandio, the economist, who got his education in Chicago, has founded Greenhope, a company that develops alternatives to conventional plastic. One of their products is called "Ecoplas." It looks like plastic, but won't take 500 years to decompose. "It is a biodegradable polymer made from tapioca," Tandio explains.

He has spent years developing this product and holds many patents associated with it. He proudly presents a plastic bag, plastic cutlery and even a bag developed specifically for the United States. It's meant for collecting your dog poop. All of it biodegradable.

Together, the two entrepreneurs won the Schwab Foundation's "Social Entrepreneur Award" in 2013, bringing international recognition to their work. Tapioka is made from dried manioc root, also known as cassava. The plant is particularly popular in many tropical countries. Nigeria, Thailand, Brazil, Indonesia and Ghana are among the biggest producers. Tandio is convinced that using it for a plastic replacement could also be an opportunity for additional income for many small-scale farmers.

Paying with plastic takes on a new meaning in Indonesia

Plastic bag ban

As more and more countries are banning plastic bags or putting fees on their use, the interest in possible alternatives has grown significantly. Tjiptadjaja and Tandio are being invited to conferences and background talks worldwide. One of them just attended the big Our Ocean Conference in Bali, the other met for talks with the government of Malaysia. Kenya and some Latin American countries have voiced an interest as well.

Indonesia wants to ban plastic bags made from oil no later than 2020. Even now, Greehope's biodegradable alternatives are available in many Indonesian supermarkets and stores. "Ecoplas — Cassava-based degradable plastic" is printed on the bags, which, at first glance, are almost indistinguishable from conventional plastic bags. Greenhope already has a staff of 50 and everything points towards continued growth.

However, production is comparatively expensive. A biodegradable plastic bag costs almost twice as much to produce as a conventional one. As a result, consumers think twice before shelling out more for such a plastic bag.

Cheap alternatives

Tjiptadjaja and Tandio work on reducing the cost as much as possible and are expanding their small research and development department. One of their solutions is an additive they call  "OXIUM." Adding it to conventional plastic has the effect that the material breaks down after only 2 years.

The plastic is still made from oil instead of renewable organic raw materials but is biodegradable and the cost of plastic that contains OXIUM is only about 2 to 5 percent higher than that of conventional plastic. It's not an ideal solution but an improvement. Especially in poorer countries, the use of OXIUM could be a cheap alternative, say the entrepreneurs. Greenhope already sells it to South Africa, Malaysia and other countries.

Stability and safety

For landfills like the one in Tangerang, Greenhope offers large plastic tarps made with OXIUM. They could stem the horrible smells the people in surrounding towns and villages are exposed to and stabilize the growing mountain of trash at the same time. That is important because the high piles collapse occasionally.

But so far, Greenhope hasn't been able to sell TPA, the company that runs the landfill, more than two tarps a year. Tandio shakes his head and looks at the tall, shaky mountain of trash. The new trash should really be covered with tarps every day, he says, but TPA just can't afford to spend so much money.

Date: 05 November 2018

Author: Manuela Kasper-Claridge

Original Source: https://www.dw.com/en/manioc-to-the-rescue-in-the-fight-against-plastic-pollution/a-46125335

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Redeeming Itself

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

It’s near impossible to dodge plastic in our lives. From medicine to packaging, food to electronics, plastic has firmly entrenched itself in many fundamental aspects of our lives. Every year, about one trillion plastic bags are consumed globally. When you take into consideration all sizes of plastic bags, that number could rise fivefold. The bags can take up to 1,000 years to break down, and images of unsightly plastic in dumps and in the ocean choking wildlife are regular scenes that have pushed the issue to a global scale. While the usefulness of plastic is hard to deny, the damage it wreaks as a result of its long lifespan is giving it some major bad press. This is something Indonesian engineer turned businessman Sugianto Tandio has been working hard at to redress.

Taking over the packaging business his father-in-law started, Sugianto invested a decade of time and money in research and development at Tirta Marta (http://www.tirtamarta.com), to produce a biodegradable alternative from tapioca that makes plastic products which can break down in two years. Cultivation of this non-genetically modified tapioca provides opportunities for farmers to earn a fair trade income from a crop that otherwise offers meagre economic return.

The two main patent-pending products, ECOPLAS and OXIUM, are available as an additive or resin and are being used in the manufacture of shopping bags, packaging, coat hangers, among other products. It costs about 5% more than conventional plastic, but the benefit of much-reduced longevity. Tirta Marta’s products are already in a dozen countries, and enjoy strong penetration in its home market, Indonesia, where it has around 30 manufacturing partners. It has five in China, 10 in Vietnam, a couple in Malaysia and one in Singapore.

Sugianto speaks to STORM about how plastic could redeem itself.

STORM: How did the idea of giving plastic a good reputation come about? SUGIANTO TANDIO: Tirta Marta is a secondgeneration family business that has been dealing with packaging and plastic for over 40 years. We’ve provided packaging for Unilever and other MNCs in Indonesia. I took over the business in 1995 and expanded it. But in 2000 I felt it was important to do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to see what we should do next.

The world uses around 275 million tons of plastic annually. Its growth almost tracks gross domestic product (GDP) figures — China’s GDP is about 8%, Indonesia’s 6-7%, and plastic use follows that. If you think about it, everything that man uses has some form of plastic. Today, there are more than 1,000 types of plastics and millions of applications.

It’s a miracle product. Imagine what we would use if we didn’t have plastic?

Prior to the invention of plastic, everything that needed to be preserved had to be bottled or put in aluminium cans. Those are bulky and expensive. For today’s global population of seven billion, how do you package the food?

It’s too bad the degradation time for plastic is too long.

After the SWOT analysis, we decided to embark upon something unusual for an Asian company. It took us 10 years to find a solution, and we hit the market in 2010. Since then we’ve penetrated lots of markets and won a lot of awards.

We started with shopping bags, which can be divided into modern (branded stores) and traditional (mom and pop shops) markets. We captured 90% of the modern market in Indonesia. Today, all the modern supermarkets in Indonesia are using our biodegradable bags.

STORM: What is the cost of your bag versus previous plastic bags? SUGIANTO: OXIUM is degradable plastic priced almost the same as regular plastic. ECOPLAS is 50% more expensive. Biodegradable plastic is not new. It’s been around for 30–40 years, but is mostly made from corn, which is a staple food in many countries and is probably 300% more expensive to use while disturbing the food chain.

Tapioca, which is what we use, is not a staple diet. It’s a tropical plant grown by many farmers. We picked it for a reason. Besides greening the environment, we are also able to help socially. We get the tapioca from the farmers, and we are the first plastic to have “Fair For Life” certification.

Plastic is made from petroleum, which comes from plankton. By origin, therefore, plastic is organic. If you compare the molecular structure of plastic with that of starch, the molecules combine hydrocarbon chains. Food, which has a polymer chain length less than 100,000 daltons (Da), is easy for microbes to consume. Plastic, however, has chain lengths that are seven million Da long — too long for the microbes to consume. That’s why it will last for hundreds of years. It takes that long for the chain to be broken down.

OXIUM is a catalyst that jump-starts the degradation process. We can tailor the degradation to suit the lifecycle of the product. The checkout bag, for instance, was invented in 1970, and today the world uses about one million a minute. We found out that 90% of people would reuse it as a garbage bag. And then it gets thrown away. So we look at that lifecycle, and figure two years is optimum for that bag to be reused and recycled. We put this two-year degradable period into the bag. This technology is not perfect but it’s better than 500 or 1,000 years. And we can do it at the same price as regular plastic.

STORM: When would you require longer degradation? SUGIANTO: In the modern market, the logistics is fairly straightforward — from the factory directly to the retailer. For the mom-and-pop shops it’s from the factory to the big distributors, then on to smaller distributors. There could be five to six layers involved. Our philosophy is to try and build some safety. Hence, we need a longer timeframe. Meanwhile, we will continue to interview stakeholders, and we will incorporate this information into the manufacturing process.

STORM: How do the plastics manufacturers view what you do? SUGIANTO: We tell them the writing is on the wall, so they need to do something about their business model.

In the last 50 years, manufacturers have become aware that plastic would be a public 60 enemy. Demand is high, but degradation time too long. So, 50 years ago they came up with the 3R strategy — reduce, reuse, recycle. Plastic?is not like steel or glass, which you reheat to 300°C and all the impurities separate naturally. Plastic is organic so you can’t recycle it forever. You?re-melt the plastic around 200°C and all the impurities are still in there. By the third time, it would be very smelly and the strength wouldn’t?be there. Recycling postpones the problem.

We look at ourselves not as a technology company but as a solutions provider. The manufacturers we partner like what we are offering. There are millions of applications, and we can’t get into all of them. After we created the technology we could process it downstream with existing plastic manufacturers, for instance those who create shopping bags, food trays, fork and spoons. To create retail hangers, we?impregnated tapioca resin with rice husk, as the fibre would make it stronger. We could have used different kinds of fibre — like wood fibre — but from a marketing standpoint you are disturbing the forest. Rice husk is natural and people just burn it after a harvest.

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Untitled-1_750_

There’s plenty of it in Indonesia after the harvest.

STORM: How long does it take to develop a product-specific application? ?SUGIANTO: It takes three to six months to develop the specific technology. We also need to source partners. We could go into production within a year.

STORM: How versatile is it?? SUGIANTO: Our application is for disposable products. Bioplastics are made from renewable resources that are not degradable. For electronics, you want something permanent.

STORM: Do most people care about the impact of plastic on the Earth, or is it just a noisy few?? SUGIANTO: They care a lot...if it’s the same price. There’s a survey done that says 80% will use it if it’s the same price. 10% will use it if it’s 10–20% more expensive. I used to think that in Europe they would be willing to pay more because they are environmentally aware. But I found out that while the technology is there the price is three times more. So it’s not moving.

My European friend pointed out an example of an American company with a slogan championing low prices daily. He said: “Don’t think Americans are willing to pay more. And Europeans are cheaper than Americans.”

STORM: So, what’s your next strategy? SUGIANTO: We are still barely scratching the surface. If we can make all plastic biodegradable, that would be extremely useful. What differentiates soil in the garden from soil in the dessert is the amount of microbes in the soil. So if you can turn all this plastic into food for microbes, it will help to green the planet.

source: http://bit.ly/1qsuu9N

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Success in the Bag

Sugianto Tandio has risen far fas. in less than a year, his company PT Tirta Marta has become the largest maker of plastic shopping bags for major retailers like Carrefour and Hero, controlling an estimated 80% of the market. His edge? Tirta Marta's bags are 100% degradable using proprietary technology developed by sugianto, yet cost almost the same as convetional plastic shopping bags.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OXIUM : Plastik ramah lingkungan

Kantong plastik kerap dituding sebagai salah satu perusak lingkungan. pasalnya, plastik tersebut tidak mudah terurai atau tidak cepat hancur, melainkan harus menunggu 1.000 tahun untuk melenyapkannya.

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Plastik : Tidak lagi berumur seribu tahun

Setelah riset delapan tahun, sebuah perusahaan Indonesia berhasil menciptakan plastik yang cepat terurai dalam tanah. harga tidak jauh berbeda dengan plastik konvensional. Hanya segelintir perusahaan yang menguasai teknologinya.

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