Vi­able bags, green wrap­pers emerge from lo­cal ini­tia­tives

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS - By Chris­han­thi Christo­pher

Sri Lankans have been in­spired to think of al­ter­na­tives to de­struc­tive poly­thene and a few ideas have so far emerged to chal­lenge the machi­na­tions of in­dus­tri­al­ists bent on pro­duc­ing un­wanted car­rier bags by the mil­lions of pieces.

House­wives and aca­demics have shown the pub­lic, lo­cally made sub­sti­tutes for lunch sheets and shop­ping bags.

The Univer­sity of Ke­laniya has crafted a light­weight fab­ric bag that it says can hold five kilo­grams. Di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Sus­tain­abil­ity and So­lu­tions, Dr. U. P. K. Yapa said the the bag is made from a mix­ture of polyester and ny­lon. It can be folded and car­ried in a pocket, or a hand­bag. It can be washed and re-used and could last up to a year.

Such fold­able, re­us­able bags are plen­ti­ful in su­per­mar­kets and shops over­seas and have been avail­able for years.

Dr. Yapa said the bag was made for univer­sity stu­dents who had wanted an al­ter­na­tive to shop­ping bags. “We banned the use of poly­thene bags within the univer­sity premises and on de­mand from stu­dents we came up with this al­ter­na­tive,'' he said.

The bag is priced at Rs 100 and has be­come pop­u­lar among the stu­dents and the pub­lic. En­trepreneurs have also shown in­ter­est in large scale man­u­fac­tur­ing of the bags.

Prof. Yapa, how­ever, said that the search for more al­ter­na­tives will con­tinue. “We are look­ing at in­tro­duc­ing a bio-degrad­able and com­postable al­ter­na­tive prod­uct.''

The Colombo Univer­sity's branch in Ham­ban­tota has pro­posed a clever way to pre­serve ba­nana leaves in a home re­frig­er­a­tor for use as a lunch wrap.

Dr. Su­jatha Weeras­inghe of the In­sti­tute for Agro- tech­nol­ogy and Ru­ral Sciences, has demon­strated that a ba­nana leaf can be made durable by dip­ping it in hot wa­ter – 100 de­grees Fahren­heit – for two to three sec­onds and rapidly dry­ing over a fire. It can then be folded with­out be­ing torn.

The folded leaf is then wrapped in oil pa­per be­fore stor­ing in a re­frig­er­a­tor. It will last up to about three months.

The ba­nana wrap­per costs 75 cents to make. It can be reused but Dr Weeras­inghe does not rec­om­mend it for hy­gienic rea­sons. The ba­nana wrap­pers can be sold at be­tween Rs 5 and Rs 7, she said.

Fol­low­ing a work­shop at the Colombo Univer­sity, 47 small- scale en­trepreneurs have al­ready ex­pressed in­ter­est in mak­ing the wrap­pers.

As for ma­chin­ery, the Mo­ratuwa Univer­sity is fab­ri­cat­ing a ma­chine to test the bio-degrad­abil­ity and com­posta­bil­ity of poly­thene in the mar­ket.

Dr Shanta Egodage of the Depart­ment of Chem­i­cal Pro­cess­ing at Mo­ratuwa Univer­sity, said that in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Na­tional Sci­ence Foun­da­tion, the univer­sity has started a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship with Sam­sons Com­pound Pvt to de­sign a lo­cally- fab­ri­cated ma­chine to test poly­thene bags and lunch sheets.

She said that the con­tract to as­sem­ble a ma­chine based on the Mi­cro­bial Ox­ida­tive Degra­da­tion An­a­lyzer, avail­able over­seas, has been given to a lo­cal com­pany. The ma­chine will be de­signed in con­form­ity with biodegrad­abil­ity stan­dard BS EN ISO 148-1:2012 and will be func­tional in the next two months.

The ma­chine is de­signed to de­ter­mine the ul­ti­mate aer­o­bic ( in the pres­ence of oxy­gen) biodegrad­abil­ity of plas­tic ma­te­ri­als un­der con­trolled com­post­ing con­di­tions by analysis of evolved car­bon diox­ide, she said.

Ke­laniya Univer­sity shows the way: The light­weight fab­ric bag. Pix by Athula De­vap­riya

Back to pa­per in­stead of take your gro­ceries home bags to

Some pack­ets or boxes of lunch now have ba­nana leaves

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