This startup is developing an inexpensive, compostable alternative to single-use plastic

In a recent attempt to address a major environmental challenge, India is phasing out single-use plastic items by banning the manufacture, import, storage, distribution, sale and use of plastic items at identified single use. As industries look for low cost alternatives in the form of biodegradable plastic, there aren’t many options available. To fill this void, TGP Bioplastics, a B2B startup based in Maharashtra, has developed a low-cost, low-emission and water-resistant compostable plastic. Recognized by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the company has received a subsidized loan of Rs 1.15 crore from the Technology Development Board (TDB), which will bring India closer to providing an indigenous alternative solution to plastic to single use (SUP).

According to the Ministry of Science and Technology, most of the composite/degradable materials available in the market have a higher price, costing more than Rs 280/kg for the raw material alone. The cheapest degradable polymer today is polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT), available at Rs. 280-300/kg, while conventional plastic raw materials cost around Rs. 90/kg. As a result, the market’s desire for degradable plastic is less. To solve this problem, the TGP has developed a new composite material that is cheaper than the compostable plastic available (~Rs 180/kg), and has comparable strength. “Our product can be manufactured at Rs 185/kg and sold at Rs 235/kg with a gross margin of 25%. However, as it is a small plant, we expect more margin after running at full capacity due to economies of scale,” Tejas Zagade, co-founder of TGP Bioplastics, told Business Today. .

This B2B startup sells plastic pellets, which are the raw materials of the packaging industries. These granules are melted and shaped into films which are then made into packages of various sizes and shapes. This compostable plastic is capable of replacing flexible retail packaging such as carrier bags, garbage bags, e-commerce packaging and general industrial packaging. During pilots, the company used films made from the material for home and industrial packaging with repeat orders.

“We are targeting single-use, commercial and industrial flexible packaging. The total Indian flexible packaging market is over 3.9 million metric tons (about 10,000 tons per day), or nearly Rs. 40,000 crore ($5 billion). India imported biodegradable plastics worth more than 2,400 crore rupees ($320 million) in 2021, almost all of which goes into making carrier bags and garbage bags. We plan to acquire at least 10% of the current market (Rs 24 crore) in our first year of operation. As the biodegradable market is growing with a CAGR of 22.1%, we plan to replace at least 60% of imported raw materials by 2025,” adds Zagade.

The composite is a unique blend of thermoplastic-starch (TPS)-glycerin with some chemical modifications that provide greater strength with low manufacturing cost. Pellets prepared from this composite can be molded into any shape and used as needed, and they break down into natural substances when discarded. “We use corn starch (constitutes more than 50% of the composition) as well as glycerine as a source. Both of these products are bio-based and have manufacturing plants in India and we source raw materials from Maharashtra and Karnataka to avoid logistics costs and carbon footprints,” says Zagade.

Rajesh Kumar Pathak, IP&TAFS, Secretary, TDB, says: “The idea of ​​making ‘degradable compostable plastic’ is the ‘need of the hour’ technology. With TDB supporting TGP Bioplastics, India is taking a step closer to providing an indigenous alternative solution to “SUP” and achieving India’s commitment to becoming a “single-use plastic free” nation.

Expansion plans

European and Australian markets have already embraced biodegradable products due to higher purchasing power, public awareness and strict environmental policies. And TGP also plans to export its granules to the bag makers available in the respective markets. To cater to the domestic and international market in the future, TGP plans to set up a 800 MT/year manufacturing plant from sanctioned subsidies. “80% of the money will be used for capital development, i.e. the extension from the pilot plant to the industrial plant. And the remaining amount will be used for establishment purposes like city power connection and some amount as working capital,” says Zagade. The company aims to invest more in R&D to develop several qualities of single-use packaging.

Founded in 2018, TGP Bioplastics is a pre-revenue startup currently in pilot stage and has raised Rs 83 lakh from various government agencies such as DST and NITI Aayog. The company has also raised grants from the United Nations. A Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed between the Technology Development Board (TDB), a statutory body under the Department of Science and Technology and TGP Bioplastics Private Limited, Satara, Maharashtra for the manufacture and marketing of compostable plastic.

Also read: Reducing GST on alternatives to banned single-use plastic items: Gopal Rai at Center

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