Plastics are versatile and cost-effective materials with a wide variety of functionalities. However, plastic waste is a transboundary, complex, social, economic, and environmental problem that needs to be addressed effectively.
Plastic has become an omnipresent material since its invention at the dawn of the 20th century, and its production has skyrocketed over the years. It is portable and lightweight and offers immense possibilities for innovation and utility. Indeed, plastic has become a “friend” of human civilization. Plastic is produced from non-renewable petroleum resources. Despite recycling, two-thirds of it is waste and accumulates in landfills or the natural environment. Plastic takes roughly 700-1000 years to degrade; in this process, it turns into microplastics and nanoplastics. These tiny particles not only cripple our environment and affect the lives of millions of species residing on Earth but also contaminate water and retard crop growth and yield. More alarmingly, these particles enter humans via foods and are deemed to ignite a series of health implications. Although a complete plastic ban might be difficult to envision in every sector of plastic use, its substitution in food packaging seems an excellent point to subdue environmental damage and improve human health. Efforts are being pursued worldwide to develop plastic-replacing materials. In this regard, cellulose provides an undeniable opportunity with its strong and stiff structure, biocompatibility, biodegradability, and low toxicity. To this end, cellulose from agricultural products, processing byproducts, and non-tree-based plant biomass stand out as sustainable sources and develop biodegradable products, e.g., films. The Earth and its current and future generations will benefit immensely from this cost-effective and environmentally sustainable solution to curb the ills associated with the use of plastic.
Grant Project Awardee