Cassava Bio Plastic, an Environmentally Friendly Solution to Handle Waste

One of the most difficult domestic wastes to deal with is disposable diapers. The number of used diapers that are thrown away coupled with the habit of wrapping diapers with plastic causes the length of the degradation time to be doubled. This is the basis for making organic plastics that are environmentally friendly and quickly decompose.

It is designed by five cross-faculty students at Universitas Brawijaya. Nandagesta Aurelia Shafa Wagmi (FMIPA), Arifah Ramadhani Azzah (FMIPA), Alifia Zahra (FTP), Sabrina Sekar Syalsabillah (FPIK), and Sayyidati Nurmuthi’ah (FP) produce bio plastics that can degrade the wrapped diaper waste by integrating endogenous mealworm bacteria, entitled “Biodegradability of Polyethylene in Baby Diapers against Endogenous Mealworm Bacteria Isolate by Modeling Degradation in Environmental Conditions”.

According to Nandagesta, there are at least 450 billion diaper waste in landfills. “This condition continues to add up to landfills across the country every year. If this happen continously to our future generations, what will happen to the earth? This is the time, we as the young generation take action and save the world,” said Nandagesta as the team leader.

According to her, the use of diapers in Indonesia is generally carried out until the baby is 3-4 years old, with the use of 3-6 diapers per day. “In fact, the number of children aged 0-4 years in Indonesia is around 24 million, this results in baby diaper waste being the third largest in the landfill,” she explained.

The habit of wrapping disposable diaper in plastic bags also slows down the process of waste degradation, since there is a polyethylene layer that is difficult to decompose. She added, “You can imagine how long the degradation time of baby diapers will be if the diaper that has been coated with polyethylene is still wrapped in a polyethylene plastic bag. The degradation of diapers wrapped in plastic bags can actually take 2 times longer!”

The length of the decomposition process is due to the absence of bacteria capable of degrading PE in the landfill. This bacterium, added Nandagesta, is only found in mealworms. “Mealworms have been proved to be able to degrade PE and survive only from eating PE. This certainly opens a new door to solve the global plastic pollution problem. Even though in reality, mealworms prefer to eat their natural food rather than PE plastic,” she explained.

The bio plastic used to wrap baby diaper waste is made from cassava waste which is integrated with endogenous mealworm bacteria which are known to be able to degrade PE, so that diaper waste wrapped in bio plastic can be degraded in a very short time. By using these five students’ innovative bio plastics, diapers that should have only been degradable for 250-500 years will be degraded in just 2 months.

The success of this research in plastic degradation using isolates of endogenous mealworm bacteria is expected to be an education for the public on plastic waste solutions, especially baby diapers. This research program can be used as a consideration for actors engaged in plastics to be able to increase the selling value by using this technology that was initiated. (Nanda/VQ/ Trans. Iir)