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Stubble burning is one of the major sources of pollution in the country, especially in the northern region. Year on year the intensifying pollution is becoming a serious health threat to humans along with flora and fauna. While the government is aggressively looking for solutions to curb the pollution caused by the burning of stubble, K J Somaiya College of Engineering and Godavari Biorefineries Ltd. have come together with a solution to help abate the harmful effects of burning paddy straw. Prof. Shivangi Viral Thakker, Faculty Mechanical Department from the institute has proposed to use paddy straw for making useful products like pulp and tableware. The three-year-long project has been approved and funded by the Department of Science and Technology. 

With the primary objective of managing the stubble waste, the project also aims to replace plastic with agricultural products to address another national issue of Plastic Ban. The project focuses on process optimization for pulping the paddy straw to produce eco-friendly tableware. The process includes the segregation of silica and pulp by pulping the rice straw.

The pulp developed will then be used for making 100% biodegradable tableware. 

Talking about the project, Prof. Shivangi Viral Thakker, Faculty Mechanical Department, K J Somaiya College of Engineering and Principle Investigator on the project said, “While stubble waste management is the primary goal of the research, replacing plastic and traditional papers with the agricultural products will ensure that another national issue of Plastic and thermocoal Ban is also addressed. The products will be tested for replacing traditional tableware and papers.”

Prof. V. N. Rajasekharan Pillai, Vice Chancellor, Somaiya Vidyavihar University said, “Every nation on a global parameter, has been working effortlessly to transpire itself with sustainable approach in terms of development. We at Somaiya Vidyavihar University have accustomed ourselves with a sustainable environment at our campus. Further to which we have been thriving to replicate the same urge on a National level. A Project of such an impetus would rightly address the issue of pollution and promote sustainable development all around to benefit a mass on a larger scale. The practice as such in a longer run shall

leave behind a better world for all.”

Dr. Ramesh Shettar (Godavari Biorefineries Limited) said, “The paddy stubble management has become a very challenging task today, despite a ban by Pollution Control Boards, stubble burning is still practiced. Repeated burning of paddy straw also results in soil erosion by heat penetration into the soil, leading to the loss of moisture and useful microbes , soil silt, and clay particles into aggregates, a loss of soil organic matter results in a loss of soil structure.”

He also added, “Most of the farmers in North Bharat are not aware of the prolific alternatives for managing stubble and, therefore, consider burning as the best option. This necessitates the need for immense awareness programs to enlighten the farmers about the availability of economically feasible options and the composite effects of stubble burning.”

Stubble management requires an integrated management approach, combining several strategies. Godavari Biorefineries Ltd is putting a lot of effort to convert all agricultural waste including paddy into useful products like bio-composite and food grade tableware to avoid use of plastic.

Bharat is one of the world's largest producers of rice, accounting for 20% of rice production worldwide. About 150-225 MMT of rice straw (Paddy straw) is generated per annum as waste. About 70-80 MMT of rice straw is disposed of by burning by the farmers. Punjab state alone generates about 20 MMT of rice straw per annum. One ton of straw burning releases 3 kg particulate matter, 60 kg CO, 1460 kg CO2, 199 kg ash, and 2 kg SO2 which causes lung and respiratory diseases and adversely affects public health. Repeated burning of paddy straw also results in soil erosion.

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