Agri Business

Gurgaon-based firm begins making biopolymer from corn starch

Subramani Ra Mancombu Chennai | Updated on July 20, 2021

Hi-Tech International gets nod from pollution control board, Petrochem Institute for its plastic substitute

Gurgaon-based Hi-Tech International, a technology sourcing provider in the field of plastics and packaging, has come out with a plant-based bio-compostable polymer. The biopolymer, made from corn starch, can replace single- and multiple-use plastic products.

“Corn starch is the main ingredient in the polymer, which is biodegradable. It is 100 per cent compostable and can replace plastic bottles, straws, cups, disposable cutlery and polybags,” said Mukul Sareen, Director, Business Development, Hi-Tech International.

Bio-compostable product

The bio-compostable polymer, branded as Dr. Bio, has received the approval of the Institute of Petrochemicals Technology (formerly Central Institute of Petrochemicals Technology Engineering and Technology) after tests.

“Our product, India’s first, was approved only after it was found to be compostable. Ours is the only Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) approved biopolymer film,” the Hi-Tech International official said.

The firm, which shifted its headquarters to the Haryana city a few years ago from Mumbai, has made further progress with its product.

“We got the Central Pollution Control Board licence to start producing the bio-compostable polymer a few days ago and we have now begun to pitch Dr Bio to various customers,” Sareen told BusinessLine in a phone interview.

Hi-Tech began producing bio-polymers at its plant in Ludhiana, Punjab, in 2018.

Polymer granules

The biopolymer is produced by converting the corn starch into a granule. “We buy starch from the mills and go in for polymerisation through a blending process. This helps us to get polymer granules the way some petrochemical firms produce plastic granules,” Sareen said.

From these granules, the Gurgaon-based firm, established in 1985, produces bottles, cups, trays, polybags and other such materials. “Corn starch makes up 60-70 per cent of our product. We also use biomass to manufacture our products,” he said.

The biopolymer product getting the mandatory clearances from the authorities is significant since India alone produces 9.46 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. At least 40 per cent of this remains uncollected. The problem with these waste is some 43 per cent is used for packaging and most are for single-use.

At least 60 per cent of this ends up in landfills or in open environments. A real problem with plastics is that out of every 100 kg, at least 40 kg is not tapped for reuse.

Stronger than plastics

Though production costs of biopolymer are higher, it can be offset by producing materials that have lower micron levels than traditional plastic products. “Biopolymers are 2.5 times costlier than plastic products but where it can score is that you cannot produce a plastic bag less than 50 microns. On the other hand, we can produce a biopolymer bag of 20 microns,” he said.

Though the micron level is lower, these biopolymers are stronger than the plastic bags. “A 50 micron conventional polybag made of plastic can normally hold products up to two kg. Our biopolymer bags can hold products up to five kg,” Sareen said.

Hi-Tech International’s hope for a good response to its product also stems from the new law that the Centre is planning to come up with toward raising the micron level to 120. “This will make our product more competitive against the plastic products,” he said.

The company has commercially launched Dr Bio and some customers have accepted it. “We are also exporting the biopolymers to Europe, the US, South America and South Africa. We have started pitching our product to e-commerce firms too and so far, we have got good traction,” he said.

Hi-Tech, which is a privately held firm, is now looking to produce similar biopolymers from potato and tapioca, which are starch materials.

Published on July 20, 2021

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