Oil Palm Bio-Plastic: A Substitute for Nondegradable Plastic

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Bio-plastic from Palm Oil Waste (Source: Media Indonesia)

Plastics are widely used in various industries such as packaging, food and beverage industry, automotive industry, children’s toy industry, furniture and household appliances, and shopping bags. Plastics demand in Indonesia is around 5 million tons per year with an average growth of 5 percent year.

Plastic raw materials that exist today namely polypropylene and polyproethylene are derived chemical products from petroleum, so not only affecting our health, they are also toxic, so difficult to decompose naturally (non degradable), and polluting the environment. Hundreds of thousands of tons of plastic annually are thrown away into the environment. Indonesia is currently the second largest country (after China) that pollutes the environment with dirty plastics.

In addition to polluting the environment of Indonesia, about 50 percent of plastic raw materials produced in Indonesia are still imported. The amount of foreign exchange income drained to import the gross plastics reaches about US $ 7 billion annually. It is already polluting the environment, detrimental to our health, yet it is draining huge foreign exchange income, too.

Now is the time to put an end to the production and use of the dirty plastic and switch to bio-plastics from palm oil. Indonesia has about 11 million hectares of palm plantations and produces about 35 million tons palm oil (CPO and PKO) per year. Other than palm oil, it also produces about 167 million tons per year of dry biomass materials in the form of empty bunches, fruit fibers, stems, leaf lids and shells that are available throughout the year. The biomass, especially empty bunches and fruit fibers, have already been collected at the palm oil factory, so it does not cost money to collect them.

Biomass and palm oil are raw materials needed to produce bio-plastics. Many universities and research institutes have been researching this palm- based bio-plastic. If the government seriously supports this palm-based bio-plastic start-up, it does not take long for Indonesia to be able to use bio-plastics as a substitute for the dirty plastics. Only from palm biomass alone, it is not difficult to produce 6 million tons of bio-plastics every year.

Palm-based bio-plastics have advantages over plastics from petroleum chemicals. Bio-plastics can decompose naturally (biodegradable) so it won’t to pollute the environment. Because it is made from organic material, it is not toxic or detrimental to our health, either. In addition, palm-based bio-plastics, all of which are domestically produced, will save up to 7 billion dollars worth of plastic imports. Even, it is possible for Indonesia to become one of the world’s exporters of bio-plastic seeds.

 

Now, it is up to the government’s seriousness to support the development of this bio-plastic industry. Experts in our universities have been involved in this bio-plastic project. If there is policy support and sufficient financing, it will make it faster to eventually produce this bio-plastics. Environmental NGOs that have been concerned with environmental sustainability also need to support the development of this palm oil-based bio-plastic industry.

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Bioplastik dari Limbah Sawit (Sumber: Media Indonesia)

Plastik merupakan bahan yang sangat luas dipakai dalam berbagai industri seperti industri kemasan, industri makanan dan minuman, industri otomotif, industri mainanan anak-anak, perabot dan peralatah rumah tangga  hingga tas belanja.  Kebutuhan plastik di Indonesia sekitar 5 juta ton per tahun dengan pertumbuhan rata-rata 5 persen tahun.

Bahan baku plastik yang ada selama ini yakni polipropilena dan poliproetilena merupakan produk kimia turunan dari minyak bumi, sehingga selain dapat mengganggu kesehatan, beracun, juga sulit terurai secara alamiah (non degradable) dan mengotori lingkungan. Ratusan ribu ton plastik setiap tahun dibuang ke lingkungan. Patut dicatat bahwa saat ini Indonesia adalah negara kedua terbesar (setelah China) dunia yang mengotori lingkungan dengan plastik kotor itu.

Selain mengotori lingkungan Indonesia sendiri, sekitar 50 persen bahan baku plastik yang dihasilkan di Indonesia masih diimpor. Devisa yang terkuras untuk mengimpor barang kotor tersebut mencapai sekitar 7 milyar dollar Amerika Serikat setiap tahun. Sudah mengotori lingkungan dan mengganggu kesehatan, menguras devisa yang besar pula.

Kini saatnya kita mengakhiri produksi dan penggunaan plastik kotor tersebut dan beralih ke bioplastik dari sawit. Indonesia memiliki Kebun sawit sekitar 11 juta hektar dan menghasilkan minyak sawit (CPO dan PKO) sekitar 35 juta ton per tahun. Selain minyak sawit, juga menghasilkan sekitar 167 juta ton per tahun bahan kering biomas berupa tandan kosong, serat buah, batang, pelapah daun dan cangkang yang tersedia sepanjang tahun. Biomas tersebut khususnya tandan kosong, serabut buah, telah terkumpul di Pabrik Kelapa Sawit sehingga tidak memerlukan biaya untuk mengumpulkannya.

Dari biomas dan minyak sawit dapat menjadi bahan baku bioplastik. Berbagai Universitas dan lembaga riset telah banyak meneliti bioplastik berbasis sawit ini. Jika pemerintah serius mendukung start-up industri bioplastik berbasis sawit ini, tidak perlu waktu lama Indonesia sudah dapat menggunakan bioplastik sebagai pengganti plastik kotor tersebut diatas. Hanya dari biomas sawit saja tidak sulit menghasilkan 6 juta ton bioplastik setiap tahun.

Bioplastik berbasis sawit memiliki keunggulan dibandingkan plastik kotor dari bahan kimia minyak bumi. Biopalstik dapat terurai secara alamiah (biodegradable) sehingga tidak mengotori lingkungan. Juga karena terbuat dari bahan organik, tidak bersifat racun atau menggangu kesehatan. Selain itu, bioplastik berbasis sawit yang semuanya dihasilkan dari dalam negeri akan menghemat devisa impor plastik sekitar 7 milyar dollar tersebut. Bahkan sebaliknya, tidak tertutup kemungkinan Indonesia kedepan menjadi salah satu eksportir biji bioplastik dunia.

 

Sekarang, tinggal keseriusan Pemerintah untuk mendukung pengembangan industri bioplastik ini. Ahli-ahli di Perguruan Tinggi kita sudah banyak yang menekuni bioplastik ini. Jika ada dukungan kebijakan dan pembiayaan, akan cepat menghasilkan bioplastik ini. LSM lingkungan yang selama ini memberi perhatian pada kelestarian lingkungan, perlu memberi dukungan pada pengembangan industri bioplastik berbasis sawit ini.

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