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Rethinking Waste: Bioplastics from Banana Peel

Chemicals | Nov, 2023

Plastic waste has taken over our planet, and it seems like there's no escape from it. For decades, plastic production and consumption have been keeping us at the mercy of its adverse effects on the environment. However, there is still hope. A new kind of plastic, bioplastics made from banana peels, has emerged as a reliable alternative to traditional plastic. In this blog post, we will dive into the production of bioplastics from banana peels, their properties, and their potential impact on the environment.

Bananas are the most commonly consumed fruit globally, with over 100 billion tonnes produced every year. It is rich in many nutrients that are essential for human health. Banana being a tropical fruit is grown worldwide and its every part has medicinal properties, similarly banana peel also has its own properties which is not consumed by humans leading to waste. However, what most people do not know is that the banana peel, which is often discarded as waste, can be used to produce bioplastics. The nutrients such as calcium, iron, starch, potassium, sodium present in banana peel makes it effective for the preparation of bioplastic and the functional group OH present in banana peel is used to absorb pollutant. Bioplastics are a type of plastic that is made from sustainable and renewable sources. The process of making bioplastics from banana peels involves extracting the starch from the peel, purifying it, and turning it into powder. The powder is then processed using specific techniques to create a bioplastic that can be used to make different plastic products.

The process of producing bioplastics from banana peel involves several steps. First, the banana peel is collected and dried. Then, it is ground into a fine powder and mixed with a natural plasticizer, such as glycerol. The mixture is then heated and formed into pellets, which can be used to make a variety of plastic products. The pellets can also be further processed into films, fibers, and other materials.

Unlike traditional plastics, bioplastics made from banana peels are biodegradable, meaning they rapidly break down in the environment and pose no harm to animal and plant life. In addition, bioplastics are recyclable and can be reused to make other products. The benefits of using bioplastics made from banana peels are many, including reducing plastic waste, decreasing the carbon footprint, and ensuring a more sustainable future.

 

According to TechSci Research report Bioplastics & Biopolymers Market - Global Industry Size, Share, Trends, Opportunity, and Forecast, Segmented By Type (Non-Biodegradable vs Biodegradable), By End-Use Industry (Packaging, Consumer Goods, Agriculture & Horticulture, Textile, Automotive & Transportation and Others), By Region and Competition 2018-2028,” the Global Bioplastics & Biopolymers Market is anticipated to increase at an impressive rate through 2028 due to the increasing demand from the end uses such as packaging industry.

As per the data released by the European Plastic Association, an estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the ocean each year, which has led to the deterioration of marine habitat and ultimately affecting aquatic life.

The market growth is driven by economic benefits provided by bioplastics and biopolymers and increasing demand for electricity from sustainable sources. Moreover, increasing environmental concerns are driving the market growth. Bioplastics have become popular lately and are seen as potential green replacement for petroleum-based plastics.

Limitations of Bioplastics Produced from Banana Peel

  • Availability

One of the limitations of bioplastics made from banana peels is their availability. While bananas are a common fruit found in most parts of the world, the amount of banana waste generated is not enough to meet the increasing demand for bioplastics. It, therefore, becomes a challenge for manufacturers to produce bioplastics from banana peels when the raw materials are not readily available.

  • Performance

The performance of bioplastics made from banana peels is generally lower than that of petroleum-based plastics. The strength and durability of the bioplastics are lower, making them less suitable for certain applications such as a substitute for materials that require high durability, flexibility, and strength. Bioplastics produced from banana peels are thus not ideal for many industrial applications.

  • Price

Another limitation of bioplastics from banana peels is the price factor. The production of bioplastics from banana peels is not as cost-effective as petroleum-based plastics. This is due to the increased cost of raw materials, production equipment, and the energy required to extract the raw materials. The high cost of production results in higher prices for the final products, and this makes it less affordable for many consumers.

  • Technical limitations

The production of bioplastics from banana peels involves a complex bioprocessing technique that requires expertise and specialized equipment. This technical limitation means that the production of banana peel-based bioplastics is only feasible for large corporations with specialized machinery. Small businesses with limited resources cannot generate their own bioplastics, and this leads to limitations in terms of scale-up potential.

  • Degradation

Bioplastics produced from banana peels are often marketed as compostable. However, their degradation rate is relatively low, which makes them unsuitable for large-scale composting facilities. The composting process requires extended periods, and during this time, the bioplastics may emit greenhouse gases such as methane. The bioplastics may, therefore, be challenging to dispose of sustainably.

Benefits of Bioplastics made from Banana Peels

The properties of bioplastics made from banana peels are similar to traditional plastic, with added benefits. They are more flexible, can be molded into any shape, and have high tensile strength. Bioplastics made from banana peels are also transparent, making them an ideal alternative to packaging materials in the food industry. With these properties, bioplastics made from banana peels can potentially replace traditional plastic in packaging and many other applications.

Also producing bioplastics from banana peel helps to reduce the amount of waste that is generated. In many parts of the world, banana peels are discarded as trash, and they contribute to environmental pollution. By using these peels to produce bioplastics, we can reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and oceans.

Another benefit of bioplastics from banana peel is that they are eco-friendly. They are made from renewable sources, unlike traditional plastics, which are made from non-renewable sources such as petroleum. Bioplastics from banana peel are also biodegradable, which means that they can break down naturally over time without causing harm to the environment.

According to TechSci Research report Biodegradable Plastic Market - Global Industry Size, Share, Trends, Competition, Opportunity and Forecast, 2017-2027, Segmented By Type (Starch Blends, Polylactic Acid (PLA), Polybutylene Adipate Terephthalate (PBAT), Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), Others), By End User Industry (Packaging, Consumer Goods, Textiles, Others), By Region,” the Global Biodegradable Plastic Market stood at USD 3438.70 million in 2021 and is expected to register a CAGR of 9.03% during the forecast period on account of growing environmental consciousness in the public and increasing expenditure by the government of various countries on research and development in this field.

The increasing use of biodegradable plastic, with growing awareness among the public about ill effects of conventional plastic waste is the major contributor to the biodegradable plastic market growth. The rising trend of using environmentally friendly materials for packaging is also influencing the growth of the biodegradable plastic market. Moreover, in comparison to petroleum derived plastic the use of biodegradable plastic leads to 50-70% reduction in carbon emissions.

However, despite the advantages of biodegradable plastics, there are several factors hindering the growth of the biodegradable plastic market, which include:

  • High Cost

One of the most significant factors hindering the growth of the biodegradable plastic market is the high cost of production. Biodegradable plastics require more expensive raw materials and equipment to manufacture, and as a result, these costs are passed on to consumers. This higher price point makes it challenging for biodegradable plastics to compete with traditional, non-biodegradable plastics, which are generally cheaper and easier to produce.

  • Lack of Proper Infrastructure for Recycling

Another factor that hinders the growth of biodegradable plastics is the lack of proper infrastructure for recycling them. Biodegradable plastics need to be processed in a different way than traditional plastics. They require special facilities and equipment that are not yet widely available. As a result, many consumers are hesitant to switch to biodegradable plastics because they are unsure of how to dispose of them properly.

  • Limited Applications

While biodegradable plastics have a variety of applications, they are still limited in comparison to traditional plastics. This means that many industries are unable to switch over to biodegradable plastics entirely. For example, biodegradable plastics are not yet suitable for use in the automotive or electronics industries, where high heat and pressure are present.

  • Lack of Government Intervention

Finally, the lack of government intervention is another factor hindering the growth of the biodegradable plastic market. Governments play a significant role in shaping markets by regulating industries and promoting alternative solutions to traditional products. Without adequate government support and investment, the biodegradable plastic market will struggle to grow and compete with traditional plastics.

In addition to being eco-friendly, bioplastics from banana peel have a range of practical applications. They can be used to make a variety of products, including packaging materials, disposable utensils, and even car parts. These products can be produced at a lower cost compared to traditional plastic products, which makes them an attractive alternative for businesses.

Another advantage of bioplastics from banana peel is that they are safe for human health. Traditional plastics contain harmful chemicals that can leach into food and drinks when they come into contact with them. Bioplastics from banana peel do not contain these harmful chemicals, making them a safer alternative for consumers.

Challenges Associated with the Process

One of the significant challenges facing the production of bioplastics from banana peels is scalability. Producing bioplastics from banana peels on a large scale requires significant investment in research, technology, and infrastructure. However, with the current push towards sustainability and a circular economy, more companies are switching to bioplastics, which makes the production of bioplastics from banana peels a potential solution to plastic pollution and environmental degradation.

Technology company Microsoft, dedicated to environmental protection has foreseen using the bioplastic made from banana peel in their cloud data centers for equipment like computer cases and server racks. The material’s ability to be recycled and fire resistance makes it suitable for this type of use. Additionally, the bioplastic may be used in several products, from home furnishings to food containers.

  • Quality Control Issues

One challenge in banana peel bioplastics production is ensuring a consistent quality product. Banana peels vary in their chemical composition and water content, which makes it difficult to determine the optimal conditions for converting them into plastic. As such, creating a reliable and consistent manufacturing process that produces high-quality bioplastics is vital in obtaining the desired material. Additionally, the cost and time associated with quality control also pose a major challenge.

Biodegradability Challenge

While banana peel bioplastics are biodegradable, the rate at which it occurs is slow compared to other bioplastics. Making it challenging to create bio-based plastics with a desirable shelf life, strength, and endurance. Reducing the time, it takes for banana peel bioplastics to decompose in the natural environment is the subject of ongoing research.

Scalability

The scale of production for banana peel bioplastics is often limited; hence this creates a significant challenge for commercial and industrial applications. Scaling up the production process to meet market demand for larger quantities of the material is a challenge that researchers face. A feasible solution is to employ more natural and sustainable practices to achieve optimized extraction rates and high-yield production.

Cost Difference Between Traditional and Biodegradable Plastics

The major challenge in the creating of banana peel bioplastics is its cost - largely contributed to the absence of feasible large-scale production alternatives to petroleum-based plastics. The cost difference between traditional and biodegradable plastics is significant, and therefore, it is difficult to create a ternary solution that works in favor of consumers, manufacturers, and the environment. Notably, the extensive use of different materials, reducing waste and energy usage during production can help reduce overall costs.

Technology

In recent times, several methods for producing bioplastics from banana peels have been developed using fermentation, chemical, and biological processes. However, the lack of sufficient technological advancement in the field to support processing at industrial capacity remains a future challenge. Currently, bioplastics produced with banana peel extracts have been reported to have low mechanical properties, which is a limitation to their use in specific applications.

The creation of banana peel bioplastics represents an excellent step in the effort towards sustainability and reducing plastic waste. However, challenges such as scale, cost, and technology must be addressed to achieve a commercially viable and sustainable solution. It will take a collective effort from researchers, industry players, and governments to overcome these challenges and unlock the full potential of banana peel bioplastics. Nevertheless, it is a promising alternative to petroleum-based plastic which has contributed immensely to plastic pollution. A feasible solution to the challenges mentioned above will give the much-needed drive towards creating a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable environment all around the world.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the production of bioplastics from banana peel is a promising innovation that can help to reduce waste, protect the environment, and provide practical solutions for businesses and consumers. As we continue to search for sustainable alternatives to traditional plastics, bioplastics from banana peel offers a promising solution. By utilizing what was once considered waste, we can create a more circular economy that is beneficial for both humans and the planet.

Therefore, while bioplastics produced from banana peels are a sustainable alternative to traditional plastics, there are still limitations that need to be overcome, including limited availability, reduced performance, higher cost, technical limitations, and slow degradation. The consumers and manufacturers must acknowledge these limitations and continue to explore ways to make the world a greener place. It is also crucial to consider other sustainable alternatives and make informed decisions that take the long-term impact on the environment into account.

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