Focused Problem

            The focused problem I achieve to solve is the catastrophically harmful plastic pollution in Indonesia, especially in the notorious Citarum River located in West Java. It is massive in size, as it spans 300 kilometers and is the third longest river in Java, followed by Brantas and Bengawan Solo river. Furthermore, it is the source of life and food for the inhabitants near the river. In its former pristine condition, it was considered as one of the places where early human civilization flourished and thrived, especially in the 4th Century and earlier. The Citarum River was the main source of clean water supply, hydroelectricity, sewerage, agriculture, and many other life-sustaining activities.

However, as time progressed and globalization covered all four corners of the earth, man’s greed for comfort, ease and money rapidly grew, hence local inhabitants desecrated the life-providing river, and started polluting it with mainly plastics. Due to the cheapness of plastics, the local near the river started disposing their waste plastic products in the river, and because of the Non-biodegradable property of today’s petroleum-based plastics, the plastic that were disposed floated everlastingly in the river. Moreover, to make the situation worse nearby textile factories in Cimahi and Bandung routed their toxic waste to this river for disposing their bulk amount of waste byproducts. The waste that were disposed by the companies includes dangerous mercury, arsenic, lead and other harmful toxins.

Subsequently, to emphasize this catastrophic issue to the Indonesian government and people of the world, the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) measured the amount of plastics in the Citarum River several times. They concluded that the increase in plastic litter is significantly growing, as when the difference between the result of the testing between 1994 and 2008, is a massive 126% increase in waste. They also found out that the in 2008 the top 3 items that was found in the river were “cigarette butts, plastic bags, and plastic food wrappers/containers” (Lytle). To wrap it all up, the total plastic waste floating in the Citarum River is approximately 187 million tons and it is constantly rising (Vaessen).

The situation reached its climax on late 2008, when the Asian Development Bank declared the river as the world’s dirtiest river, and provided a loan of $500 million just for cleaning revitalizing the severely contaminated river. Moreover, the whole cleaning process costed $4 billion (Rp35 trillion), and thought huge funding were provided by the government, the river is not fully cleaned, even until today. After analyzing and filtering the trash disposed in the river, it was justified that the huge magnitude of this issue was mainly caused by petroleum-based plastics. This massive and continuous littering was not only caused by uneducated locals near the river, but also educated companies and industries. 

Feasible Inspirational Solutions

After considering the severe magnitude of the catastrophic disaster in Citarum River, a feasible and reliable solution would be to use bioplastics derived from pineapple, coconut and banana peel waste as an environmentally friendly and biodegradable replacement to the ubiquitous harmful petroleum based plastics. After doing some extensive research and exploration, it became clearer that this is amongst the only solutions to eliminate plastics. As there are some other methods such as increasing tax by Rp200 for each plastic bag provided in stores, markets and groceries, implemented by the Indonesian government, which is quite fruitless because of the inefficiency of the solution due to the cheapness of the tax, resulting in the middle to upper-class citizens to ignore the seriousness of this issue. Overall, to clearly show the genuine possibility and utmost reliability of my solution, I have taken efforts to execute this solution in my own time.

 

Summary of Solution

My overall project’s vision and mission was to produce a high tensile strength, cost-effective, ergonomic, safe, easily accessible, and fully biodegradable plastic for effective and sustainable substitution of petroleum-based plastics, and fortunately after a year of experimentation and testing, I was successfully able to achieve my mission and vision. The major organic materials I have extensively used in the creation of my bioplastic are superfluous coconut water, pineapple juice and banana peel. These organic materials are deliberately chosen mainly because of their copious production in my society and country. 

The bioplastic I have created serves a beneficial role in my society, since it succors my society’s cravings for petroleum-based plastics, and prevents my society’s degradation via air, water and land pollution. Nowadays the world’s cravings for plastics is greater than ever, and this over-reliance of petroleum based plastics for everyday applications, causes the destruction of the environment, various ecosystems and even our very existence through land, water and air pollution.

Thus, biodegradable plastics are the antidote to this problematic issue, and this is precisely what my project’s main aim is. Throughout the period of a year, I have researched and experimented on multiple organic materials (especially profuse in cellulose), while avoiding the usage of harmful chemicals and/or bacterium. Consequentially, I have created a bioplastic by combining and heating the cellulose derivative of nata de coco, nata de pina and nata de banana skin, produced by fermenting coconut water, pineapple juice and banana peels using the bacteria Acetobacter Xylinum. 

 

Further Research & Exploration

Through the initial stages of my project I had received inspiration from a few individuals working on similar projects, in the area of bioplastics, namely Amin Hataman, a 15-year-old Filipino who created nata de coco-based bioplastics for societal purposes. These types projects challenged me and helped me question myself, can I make a stronger, better, cheaper, prettier and more accessible bioplastic? This spark I had later grew into a furnace, and guided me into exploring various methods and alternatives in creating a bioplastic. 

The major reasons why the three organic materials (coconut water, pineapple juice and banana peel extract) were chosen to be my foundational constituent in the creation of my bioplastic is because in the society I live in, these are taken for granted and wasted arbitrarily in excessive amounts. According to FAOSTAT, the current country I live in, Indonesia, is the number one global producer of coconut water, producing approximately 19,400,000 metric tonnes, fifth largest producer of pineapples at 1,780,889 metric tonnes and sixth largest producer of bananas at 6,189,052 metric tonnes in 2012. Therefore, utilising these mass-produced organic materials in my society is an ingenious solution to the local and global issue of plastic pollution. 

According to The Handbook of Bioplastics and Biocomposites Engineering Applications by Mr. Srikanth Pilla, the major component of bioplastics and biocomposites is Bacterial Cellulose (BC). BC consists of gelatinous pellicle formed in the surface of Acetobacter cultures, namely Acetobacter Pasteurianus, Acetobacter Xylinus and Acetobacter Xylinum. The BC is a potent polymeric material with a cardinal potential, especially in the creation of organic bioplastics based on cellulose derivatives. The purest form of cellulose (homo-beta-l, 4-glucan), are produced majorly by the Bacterial strain, Acetobacter Xylinum, and its physical and chemical structure structure closely resembles that of a plant (Pilla, 131).

However, when compared to wood pulp cellulose, the degree of polymerisation of BC is 15 times greater, thus affecting the crystalline formation greatly. Indeed, BC is comprised of 70% crystalline and 30% amorphous regions, which provides a smooth texture and high water retention. Nevertheless, BC are certainly the most efficient form of bioplastics, because of its accessibility, ubiquitousness and versatility in fermentation of multiple organic cellulose materials such as coconuts, pineapples and banana peels.

Additionally, according to Environmental Implications of Recycling and Recycled Products written by Subramanian S. Muthu, Acetobacter Xylinum could produce exceptional yield in organic cellulose materials namely coconut water and pineapples. Coconut water produced 553 grams of cellulose per litre and pineapple produced 576 grams of cellulose per litre when introduced to Acetobacter Xylinum TISTR 998 and Acetobacter Xylinum TISTR 893, respectively (Muthu, 198). Plus, to strengthen the cellulose of these organic products, and to increase the speed and efficaciousness of the bacterial fermentation, inorganic nitrogen-rich salts (Fertilizer products) would be added, especially Ammonium sulphate which contains 21% nitrogen and 24% sulphur. Finally, since Acetobacter Xylinum is a gram-negative rod-shaped bacteria, Yeast Agar Extract could be added to aid in the fermentation process. 

 

Methodology and Plan of Solution Execution

Throughout my experiment the three variables (independent, dependant and control) governed the methodology and equipment I have used in the creation process, and these variables were vital for me to achieve a fair, precisely replicable and controlled testing procedure. The independent variables present in my testing were the concentration of each organic material (coconut water, pineapple juice and banana peel extract), and the duration of heating the cream (nata) of the combined organic materials. Secondly, the dependant variable of my testing process were the tensile strength, biodegradability and elasticity of the bioplastic. Finally, the control variable of my testing process were the quality and type of each organic material, pH of the solution before the fermentation process, internal and external temperature when storing the organic materials and when drying the creams (natas), and the quantity of Acetobacter Xylinum added to the solution. 

I had ensured that the testing process was fair by conducting a thorough visual and physical quality-control inspection by receiving coconut water of the same species from the same source, and for the pineapples and banana peels, I used PASCO Colorimeter Sensor to analyse their ripeness level classification. I used PASCO pH sensor to measure the organic materials’ pH, the internal temperature of the coalesced solutions was constantly assessed for consistency, also the temperature of the heating process of the creams (natas) were constant at 45 degrees centigrade.

 

Preparation:

  1.  Coconut water is extracted from coconuts 
  2.  Pineapple juice is juiced from fresh ripe pineapples
  3.  Banana peels are peeled and the skins are squeezed within a day of peeling

 

Creation Procedure:

  1. 55ml Pineapple juice, 120 ml coconut water and 75ml of banana juice concentrate are stirred until coalesced 
  2. 12.5 ml vinegar, 25 grams of cane sugar, 2 grams of ammonium sulphate and 2 grams of Yeast Agar Extract is added, these ingredients are vital to succour the bacterial growth. Ammonium sulphate provides nitrogen and vinegar provides acetic acid, both vital for maximal bacterial growth.
  3. The resultant’s pH level would be measured, and would be expected to be at pH 4.0-5.0 for bacterial growth and preservation 
  4. The resultant would be heated until boiling point, poured onto a sealed container and left to cool out for 15 minutes in a dry place at room temperature.
  5. 25ml of Acetobacter Xylinum is subsequently added, and after the addition of the bacteria, the container would be sealed tightly and wrapped using aluminium foil to inhibit air from entering the container.
  6. The resultant in the container is left to sit for 2 weeks in a dry place with room temperature
  7. After the aforementioned duration, the resultant has achieved thick gelatinous viscosity 
  8. The resultant product would be heated in an oven for 55 hours in 45 degrees centigrade

The experimentation took place in my school’s lab (SPHI) and at my house. I took extensive safety measures when handling with chemical and biological substances, such as surgical gloves, lab coat and safety goggles. But since most ingredients are harmless, safety is highly ensured throughout the testing.

 

Results of the Solution

I have conducted multiple experiments with altering independent variables, while keeping the control variables controlled and assessing the dependent variables with scientific equipment, mainly from PASCO. After experimenting on exactly six trials, I have collected and evaluated the results based on multiple factors, such as biodegradability, tensile strength, thickness and transparency/translucency, and from the six trials three were successful. 

 

Trial 1 (The mixed solution is heated at 40 degrees centigrade for 45 hours): 

  • A very thin coat of plastic is formed with considerably high viscosity, the thickness of the plastic is less than 0.5 millimeter after measuring using a Vernier Caliper
  • The bioplastic tore instantly when exposed to a 5N force
  • Biodegraded in approximately 3 days
  • Less than 30% of the mixture present in the petri dish turned into the thin layer of plastic
  • The bioplastic is very transparent and clear
  • The bioplastic is flaccid and not thick

 

Trial 2 (Heated at 50 degrees centigrade for 45 hours): 

  • A rigid coat of plastic is formed, thickness of the plastic is less than 1 millimeter 
  • Did not tear when exposed to a 5N force
  • Biodegraded in approximately 1 week
  • Less than 45% of the mixture turned into the thin layer of plastic
  • The bioplastic is not transparent and clear

 

Trial 3 (Heated at 45 degrees centigrade for 45 hours): 

  • Thickness of the plastic is more than 1.25 millimeter 
  • Did not tear when exposed to a 5N force
  • Biodegraded in approximately a month
  • Approximately 40% of the mixture turned into the thin layer of plastic
  • The bioplastic is quite transparent and clear

 

Trial 4 (Heated at 45 degrees centigrade for 50 hours): 

  • Thickness of the plastic is approximately 1.3 millimeter
  • Did not tear when exposed to a 5N force
  • Biodegraded in approximately more than a month
  • More than 75% of the mixture turned into the thin layer of plastic
  • Bioplastic is not transparent and clear
  • The bioplastic is overly inflexible

 

Trial 5 (The mixed solution is heated at 45 degrees centigrade for 60 hours): 

  • Thickness of the plastic is more than 2 millimeter
  • Did not tear when exposed to a 5N force
  • Biodegraded in more than a month
  • More than 75% of the mixture turned into the thin layer of plastic
  • Bioplastic is not transparent and clear
  • The bioplastic is very inflexible

 

Trial 6 (Heated at 45 degrees centigrade for 55 hours) : 

  • Thickness of the plastic is approximately 1.5 millimeter 
  • Did not tear when exposed to a 5N force
  • Biodegraded in more than a month’s time
  • More than 75% of the mixture turned into bioplastic
  • Bioplastic is considerably transparent and clear
  • Bioplastic is flexible

Collective Results

 

Target/Goal

Trial 1

Trial 2

Trial 3

Trial 4

Trial 5

Trial 6

Amount of Mixture used (in ml)

20

20

20

20

20

20

20

Thickness of Bioplastic (in mm)

1.25-1.75

< 0.5

<1

> 1.25

1.3

>2

1.5

Tensile Strenght/Endurance (in Newtons)

> 5N

NO

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

Duration of Endurance (mins)

> 15

0 (N/A)

7

13

24

32

48

Percentage of Bioplastic Produced

> 75

< 30

< 40

45

> 75

> 75

> 80

Translucency

Partially Clear

V ery Clear

Not Clear

Partially Clear

Partially Clear

Not Clear

Partially Clear

Flexibility

Flexible

Not Flexible

Not Flexible

Not Flexible

Flexible

Flexible

Flexible

Trends:

  • The ideal temperature for heating the mixture is 45 degrees centigrade and ideal duration is 55 hours, too low/short would result in less utilization of mixture and flaccidity, while too high/long would result in rigidity and opaqueness.
  • The most successful result is Trial 6, as it produced desired amount of thickness, biodegradability duration, tensile strength, efficiency and transparency.

 

Conclusion

In summary, the results I collected, synthesized and analyzed from 24 pilot experiments and 5 experimental trials ultimately enlightened me on the duration, temperature and quantity/proportions of organic and inorganic materials used. Multiple trends were noted from the pilot experiments, and these are:

 

  1. During the heating process, the temperature of the heat correlates with the duration of heating as the hotter and longer the heating process is, the higher the rigidity, thickness and inflexibility.
  2. During the heating process, the temperature of the heat correlates with the duration of heating as the colder and shorter the heating process is, the higher the flaccidity and flexibility, while lower the thickness.
  3. The ideal pH level is 4.0-5.0 for the organic mixture in the fermentation process, if the mixture is more acidic, the bacteria (Acetobacter Xylinum) would die and similarly if it is more basic it would inhibit maximal growth of the bacteria 

 

The findings of the numerous testing I had conducted supports my overall goal of my solution, and resulted in the creation of an expected outcome. This is justifiable as I have successfully produced a high tensile strength, cost-effective, ergonomic, safe, easily accessible, manufacturable and fully biodegradable bioplastic using coconut water, pineapple and banana peels (societally abundant resources), and I was able to achieve this by using Acetobacter Xylinum, an accessible and harmless microbe.

Most of the findings from my experiment is collected after using multiple scientific equipment from PASCO, from pH sensor to temperature sensors to minimise as much uncertainty and technological error as possible. However, there are a few limitations, namely in achieving complete consistency of the bioplastic production, since despite various testings (like using the Colorimeter sensor), the organic materials would differ in various parts of the world and would even differ locally. Nevertheless, these limitations won’t significantly affect the quality of the bioplastic produced.

 

Closing Opinion on the Solution

This bioplastic solution would have an exponential future impact on the Citarum River, and Indonesia as a whole, since this product could provide the residents near Citarum River – “the dirtiest river in the world” – with an alternative to the harmful non-biodegradable petroleum-based plastics. Indeed, I have spent additional time to transform the process of manufacturing the bioplastics more feasible for my society. I have substituted the oven heating process to sun-dry method, found out a method of producing the vital microbe (Acetobacter Xylinum) locally by fermentation of pineapple juice extracts, and found a more locally accessible and relatively cheaper inorganic salt (Ammonium sulphate) in the form of fertilizers, locally referred as Pupuk ZA. 

This alternative bioplastic would reduce plastic pollution as a whole, namely in the form of water, air and land pollution, which would significantly succour my local environment, especially the historical Citarum River. However, further work may be needed in further lowering the cost of the bioplastics to create a revolution in the plastic industry by achieving maximum commercialism. This is because, the local Indonesian market won’t as easily readily implement this solution if the the cost of the bioplastics as marginally greater than petroleum-based plastics, hence cheapening the process of creation, and bacterium used is the best plan of action. In conclusion, my results have inspired me to ask more questions, namely, how can I utilize more organic waste materials to create a cheaper, and stronger bioplastic for my society and for the world, especially for Citarum River? As scientific technologies and innovations evolve, this question would be easier for me to answer!

Works Cited

Caprio, Leonardo Di. “Before the Flood.” The Science Is Clear, the Future Is Not. Before the

Flood, 08 Sept. 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <https://www.beforetheflood.com/>

Halim, Nurul Iffah. “SYNTHESIS OF BACTERIAL CELLULOSE BY Acetobacter

Xylinum Sp. USING PINEAPPLE PITH FOR BIOCOMPOSITE APPLICATION.” (2010): 1-26. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

Kongruang S. “Bacterial Cellulose Production by Acetobacter Xylinum Strains from

Agricultural Waste Products.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2008. Web. 25 Mar. 2016.

Lytle, Claire Le Guern. “WHEN THE MERMAIDS CRY: THE GREAT PLASTIC

TIDE.” Coastal Care, Santa Aguila Foundation, Apr. 2016, plastic-pollution.org/.

Merlita, Ria. “Fermentasi Nata De Coco.” Academia. Academia, n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.

Muthu, Subramanian Senthilkannan. Environmental Implications of Recycling and Recycled

Products. 1st ed. New York: Springer, 2015. Print.

Sutanto, Agus. “Pineapple Liquid Waste As Nata De Pina Raw Material.”MAKARA of

Technology Series MST 16.1 (2012): 63-67. Academia. Web. 19 Mar. 2016.

Suarti, Budi, Aswan Riadi, and Taufik. “Studi Pembuatan Nata Dari Kulit Pisang (Nata De

Banana Skin).” Jurnal Ilmu Pertanian. Agrium, Apr. 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.

Syamsir, Riky. “Mempelajari Kondisi Optimum Aktivitas Acetobacter Xylinum Dalam

Pembuatan Nata De Banana Skin.” Repository Universitas Andalas. Repository Universitas Andalas, 11 Oct. 2011. Web. 18 March 2016.

Ronda, Rainier Allan. “15-year-old Wins Award for Biodegradable Plastic Bags.” Headlines.

Philstar Global, 17 Sept. 2015. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.

Vaessen, Step. “Indonesia: Plastic Tax to Curb Rubbish Dumped in Rivers.” Aljazeera,

Aljazeera, 15 Sept. 2016.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

I am a zealous science enthusiast and active sportsman, filled with plethoric scholastic (curricular and extracurricular) achievements, and fervent passion to learn more, feel deeper, and think higher.


1 Comment » for Succoring the Citarum River
  1. PilarSeibert says:

    I see your site needs some fresh articles. Writing manually is time consuming, but there is tool for this task.
    Just search for: Digitalpoilo’s tools

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Thank you for visiting CSR Match

The funding platform for corporations and SDG compatible projects

We’ve now concluded the beta- phase of the project and we’re getting ready to take the next step in our journey. Please come back and check on us soon!