Pune Science Weekly: Using agro-waste to produce pulp for green furniture and disposable packaging
The next time you get home a carton of beer in Bengaluru, you may get it packaged in a biodegradable bag made from barley waste. Pune-based startup Craste has been working to turn farm waste into value-added products as well as to give farmers a source of additional income.
Crop waste mismanagement and stubble burning have been a major bone of contention in tackling air pollution, especially in areas surrounding the national capital, for several years now. Numerous attempts to address this issue are yet to see sustainable fruition.
Gwalior-based engineer Shubham Singh (30) got a taste of this problem first-hand during his extensive tours across India in 2017. It is from these fields that the idea of Craste (crop – waste) germinated. Using his chemical engineering knowledge, Singh decided to explore ways to put farm waste to better use.
India’s forest cover, with respect to the geographical area, increased from 21.05 per cent in 2011 to 21.67 in 2019, said the State of India’s Forest Report 2022 released in January this year.
So has the country’s wood demand, especially with respect to the construction sector, leading to a growing import of wood and wood-based raw materials like pulp, veneer, plywood and others.
According to a 2019 report published by the International Tropical Timber Organisation, India imported 8,69,000 m3 (cubic metre) of sawnwood; veneer to the tune of 4,15,000 m3 and 1,41,000 m3 of plywood.
Malaysia and New Zealand are India’s major wood suppliers. In the 2009-2019 period, India’s plywood and panel import supplies came from China (56 per cent), Indonesia (13 per cent), Malaysia (8 per cent) and Myanmar (7 per cent) according to ‘ India’s timber supply and demand – 2010 – 2030’ report.
Observing such heavy imports and high costs to meet the needs of the Indian packaging and furniture industry, Singh’s efforts are to cut this dependence. With the support of a BIRAC grant worth Rs 70 lakh given by the Department of Biotechnology, Craste’s journey began at Pune’s Venture Center in 2018.
“We fetch and buy farm residue locally. The collected waste is then shredded into equal-sized particles before being blended with a formaldehyde-free adhesive developed by our team. The mixture is then heated and pressed into engineered green boards of desired sizes,” Singh said.
Local sourcing is done for two reasons, Singh said, as it cuts the high transportation costs besides helping the local economy and farmers earn a supportive income.
Currently, the Craste team is working with waste obtained from the remains of paddy fields, wheat, barley, mustard and sugarcane (bagasse) cultivation. “Rice straw is coarse due to high silica content, hence farmers feed it to the cattle. The engineered green boards made out of rice straw can be best used as false ceilings or partitions in rooms and for making furniture,” Singh said.
According to Singh, the USP of the Craste’s adhesive is that it does not contain formaldehyde, which is known to be carcinogenic (having the potential to cause cancer). “This technology has the potential to have a high social impact in terms of bringing down pollution, giving additional income to the farmers from selling the stubble waste instead of burning,” said Mugdha Lele, head, Social Innovation at Venture Center.
Craste has demonstrated a range of eco-friendly products such as watch covers, cutlery, envelopes and wine bottle packing bags. In recent months, there have been several enquiries from companies seeking customised packaging. This week, the startup delivered a major consignment of packaging boxes to a leading beer manufacturing company that will be formally launched in Bengaluru on Earth Day.
Barley, one of the ingredients in brewing beer, has found a value-added end-use, thanks to Craste. “We have supplied 5,000 boxed made out of barley waste. Each box can hold upto six beer bottles. These boxes are biodegradable and can even be disposed of in one’s kitchen gardens,” Singh said.
Rupa Malireddy, who is responsible for the design of the products, said: “The packaging products are moisture-resistant and can be disposed of safely after use.”
By the end of April, Craste will launch factory-scale operations from its maiden agri-fibre conversion unit from Gwalior. The unit will be able to process up to 3,000 kg of pulp per day and produce 30 boards on a pilot basis. “The pulp can be obtained at least 40 per cent cheaper than the pulp obtained from virgin tree remains in markets,” said Singh.
Sorce from: Anjali Marar (April 20, 2022). Pune Science Weekly: Using agro-waste to produce pulp for green furniture and disposable packaging. The Indian Express. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/pune-science-weekly-agro-waste-pulp-disposable-packaging-7878063/