A new, potentially important, source of bioplastic has been discovered in India-the Jatropha plant, which is already being processed to produce diesel fuel. The Salt and Marine Chemical Research Institute (CSMCRI) of Banglaore, India is using a local microbe to produce plastic from the glycerol byproduct of biodiesel production.
“We have successfully made biodegradable plastic from a side stream product of Jatropha called glycerol found during the process of biodiesel extraction from the plant fruit,” Pushpito K. Ghosh, CSMCRI director said in a press release. “We discovered the microbial organism from Indian waters that facilitates the conversion of crude glycerol into biodegradable plastic…We are looking towards scaling up its commercial production now,” he said.
CSMCRI has already converted byproducts of the process into oil cake, soap, fertilizer, and briquettes having coal-like thermal properties. The project is partially funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
The institute has 500 liters per day production capacity of biodiesel costing below Rs 40 per liter (about 34 cents per gallon). The number is based on Jatropha dry fruit cost of Rs 10,000 ($226) per metric ton and marketing of byproducts. CSMCRI has a venture with General Motors to achieve European certification for the fuel.
CSMCRI is also working on boosting the output of the Jatropha plant on research plantations. The institute has exceeded 3 kg of seed yield for some plants and also achieved the highest-ever reported seed weight with excellent oil content (40 percent).
It was not immediately clear the types of polymers the institute plans to produce.