Successful ‘BioFuture’ workshops in Malaysia and India
von Venkateshwaran Venkatachalam
(Hanover, 18.11.2019) The IfBB in collaboration with the University of Nottingham, Malaysia and Vel Tech Rangarajan Dr. Sagunthala R&D Institute of Science and Technology, India has successfully organized two-day workshops in Malaysia and India on bioplastics and biocomposites this October. The workshops were organized within the framework of the ‘BioFuture’ project, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany.
Workshop in Malaysia
IfBB conducted its first of the two workshops ‘Bioplastics and Biocomposites – Innovative Building Blocks of the emerging bioeconomy’ at the University of Nottingham (UNM) campus, Malaysia. The workshop saw external participants from different industries, associations and research institutions in Malaysia. Morning session of the workshop comprised of presentations from both UNM and IfBB addressing the definition, market and classification of bioplastics, processing of bioplastics and its challenges, end-of-life options and sustainability of bioplastics, production of bioplastics from algae and production of bio-based rubber. In the afternoon, a ‘Industry-University Interactive Session’ was held, which provided an opportunity to discuss about the waste situation and management of plastic wastes in Malaysia, recycling of plastics, usage of alternative bio-based materials with the advent of the single-use plastic ban, policies to certify the alternate plastics and finally the role of industries in the plastic pollution in Malaysia. Some of the outcomes from the workshop were:
- Malaysia has a vision to ban single-use plastics by 2030
- But the alternative materials for the conventional plastics are still at the startup stage
- Industries in Malaysia follow the strategy of ‘Wait and See’, which makes them hesitant to try new alternative materials for plastics
- The national and international companies in Malaysia need to co-ordinate more with the government and policies that will increase the recycling of plastics rather than just landfilling them, as in the case with most of the regions in Malaysia
- The first whitepaper on recycling plastics wastes was published this year and is expected to bring some attention among the government and industries in finding solutions for the plastic pollution.
On the second day of the workshop, researchers from UNM and IfBB discussed with each other on the future co-operation, possibility of developing joint research proposals within the framework of Horizon 2020 and beyond in the field of bioplastics and biocomposites. The afternoon session of the workshop involved the visiting of the facilities at UNM campus to get an idea of the machines and technologies UNM could offer within the research consortium of the BioFuture-Project.
Workshop in India
IfBB conducted its second workshop ‘Bio-based and Circular Economy for a sustainable future’ at the Vel Tech Rangarajan Dr. Sagunthala R&D Institute of Science and Technology, Chennai, India. The workshop saw participants from different research institutions. The chief guest of the workshop was Dr. Mohd Aslam, Scientist ‘G’ Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Managing director, BIRAC, Govt. of India, New Delhi, India. He explained the importance of bio-based products in India and advancements in this field. Morning session of the workshop comprised of presentations from IfBB and external participants addressing the definition, market and classification of bioplastics, processing of bioplastics and its challenges, end-of-life options and sustainability of bioplastics, engineering microbes for the production of value added chemicals and biotransformation of wastes. In the afternoon, an interactive session was held, which provided an opportunity for the participants to discuss about the plastic pollution, awareness about the effects of plastics in the environment, waste management and stringent rules to curb plastic pollution. Some of the outcomes from the workshop were:
- Usage of conventional plastics is considered to be a threat to the environment and biodiversity both by the people and the government
- Stringent laws for the production, usage and disposal of plastics should be implemented
- There is no consistent policy and stand on plastic pollution among different states in India. There is a ban on single-use plastics only in some states in India and the country has shelved the plans for a nation-wide ban.
- Even though there are good policies for waste management and minimization of conventional plastics in states like Tamil Nadu, the execution of those policies is challenging especially with respect to the sorting/segregation of the wastes and the lack of self-discipline among the public
- Rise in the alternative materials like natural fibres, biodegradable plastics as a replacement for conventional plastics following the ban of single-use plastics in Tamil Nadu
- Proper certifications and standards for the alternative materials (Biodegradable plastics for example) to the conventional plastics will definitely boost the market and make it attractive for the industries and public.
On the second day of the workshop in India, researchers from Vel Tech and IfBB discussed on the possibility of long-term co-operation, developing joint research proposals within the framework of Horizon 2020. The afternoon session of the workshop also involved in the visiting of the biotechnology facilities at Vel Tech to get an idea on expertise Vel Tech could offer within the research consortium of the BioFuture-Project.
Overall, the workshops in Malaysia and India were a successful experience for the BioFuture consortium. These workshops have opened up new ideas and perspectives with respect to the usage of conventional plastics and the replacement of it with alternative bio-based materials in some of the countries in Asia. The BioFuture consortium will consider these outcomes and learnings when coming up with innovation and new solutions in the field of bioplastics and biocomposites in the future.