Agro-based biocomposites help sequester carbon, control air pollution and reduce global warming

According to the Union’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, India generates 500 million tons of crop residues annually. Crop residues are typically used as fodder and fuel for household and industrial purposes. However, a surplus of 140 million tons is reported to go unattended, of which 92 million tons are burned every year.

Burning crop residues creates serious environmental hazards such as greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, increased particulate matter and smog that lead to health hazards and loss of biodiversity.

Burning plant debris significantly increases the concentration of air pollutants such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia and nitrogen oxides, sulfur, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter (PM). Studies have speculated that if existing practices continue, these emissions could increase by 45 percent by 2050.

Almost 137.16 gigagrams (1 Gg = 1,000,000 kilograms) and 163.75 Gg PM2.5 and PM10 were emitted from the incineration of crop residues in Punjab in 2020, according to a study on the district-by-district detailed emissions inventory. In Haryana the concentration of PM2. 5 and PM10 were 56.95 pounds and 72.15 pounds, respectively.

So far, most government interventions have mainly focused on the generation of energy from crop residues, particularly on biogas production. But the development of biocomposites using agricultural residues such as rice husks, stalks of most cereal crops and coconut fiber is also gaining attention.

Natural fiber-reinforced composite materials have received considerable attention in recent years because they are better than synthetic fibers: They are light, have an improved surface finish of the composite parts, are cheap, biodegradable and have good mechanical properties.

The plant biomass consists mainly of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin with smaller amounts of pectin, protein extracts, sugars and other extracts. Cellulose is the biomolecule that structurally supports the biocomposite.

The CSIR-Advanced Materials and Process Research Institute (AMPRI), Bhopal, has developed a technology for the large-scale recycling of parali (paddy straw / stubble) and wheat straw to produce hybrid green composite particles / fibreboard on a pilot scale.

They optimized the process parameters and the process know-how. The technology package is ready for commercial scale manufacturing. The developed composites and better alternatives for particle board, MDF (medium density fibreboard) and wood can be used as architectural cladding panels and partitions, doors and furniture.

Biocomposites made from agricultural waste are durable, inexpensive and resistant to termites and corrosion. They are available in different colors, textures and finishes and are of better quality than chipboard.

These composites help sequester carbon, control air pollution, and reduce global warming. Biocomposites made from agricultural waste contribute to a sustainable business model that improves the livelihoods of the rural poor.

Aside from their abundance and renewability, the use of agricultural residues is beneficial for the economy and the environment in comparison to thermoplastic polymer composites reinforced with inorganic fillers due to their low density, their low energy requirements in production, their low CO2 emissions and their high biodegradability. It may help create a clean and competent India program in India.

However, it is important to note that confidence in the sustainability of construction products based on agricultural waste will only be high enough if a legal instrument supports and encourages this. The use of construction products based on agricultural waste must be made mandatory at the policy-making level.

The construction industry needs training to improve the use of these products. There needs to be a focused mission mode approach to building the green building products market.

This must be done by authorized government agencies. Many such experiments have been successfully demonstrated in developed countries, making the equations for market creation and demand-supply possible.