Home Startup Stories Replacing single-use plastic with starch-based biodegradable polymer

Replacing single-use plastic with starch-based biodegradable polymer

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The Dopper Changemaker Challenge started in 2017 in the Netherlands. This year, it took place in Kathmandu along with other popular European cities including Amsterdam, Berlin, and London. The final of this international competition was held on 15th June Saturday not only in Kathmandu but also in Amsterdam, London, and Berlin. In total 445 students from all over the world applied to get a chance to win the title of Changemaker 2019.

One of the ten finalists of the Dopper Changemaker Challenge in Nepal, Amrita Sigdel, shares with us what her thesis was about and her overall experience at Dopper. Read on to find out more.

1. Let’s start with your thesis and how did you come about it?
The topic of my thesis is Starch-based biodegradable Polymer. The basic idea is to replace plastic with environment-friendly Polymer to make biodegradable single-use plastic products. This not only reduces our dependency on plastic to make packaging products but also, the effect of plastic on the environment. 

I completed my MSc. in Chemistry from Tri Chandra Multiple Campus and while thinking about a topic for the research, I came across the uses of Polymer and how it can be used to replace plastic through a professor. As a chemistry student, I had always wanted to do something in the field of environment and sustainability so I realized this could be a great topic to work on, given the situation of plastic pollution currently in the world.

However, I did not get to implement my thesis because of a lack of technology and resources here in Nepal. Instead, I partnered with another team and ran No straw movement where were approached around 400 restaurants to replace plastics straws with alternatives to plastics straws such as copper straw, bamboo straw, and paper straw. Out of this, 35 restaurants switched to these straws and are still in contact with us.

2. How was your experience at Dopper Changemaker Challenge?
It was amazing, I think I got out of my shell and became more confident in terms of how I approach people and present my ideas, by participating in it. Before I used to be confined to college, home and lab only but at Dopper, I got to connect with 20 teams and also to know about their ideas. It was really inspiring and motivating for me as I got to bring my ideas into practicality and explore its impact. Plus the mentors were very supportive and always pushing us to make our project better. 

3. Have similar studies already been conducted in Nepal? Or is the idea entirely new?
There haven’t been similar studies conducted in Nepal, as per the published articles. This is not a new concept outside Nepal though. Some countries have already commercialized on this idea and have replaced plastic products with degradable Polymer products. 

4. What challenges did you face while implementing your idea?
Since my project/idea is concerned with starch-based polymer, I realized that agriculture here needs to be advanced so that we can obtain starch in a higher amount and quality. There was also a challenge of technology as I couldn’t even make a prototype because of proper tools and resources. Also, people aren’t well aware of its benefits so, they might be reluctant to switch to plastic made of starch and to bear its extra costs.  

5. Do you have any plans on turning your idea into a startup? What opportunities do you think awaits you if you do?
I’m not thinking about it as of now but if given the right circumstance and further research, I might give it a thought. My future plan is to study more in this field and conduct advanced research so I am fully aware of its properties. Since this is a new concept in Nepal, if I am able to use this idea for a startup, I will have a first-mover advantage.

For more information about this idea, please connect Amrita Sigdel at sigdel123amreeta@gmail.com.

Interviewed and article by Yangzum Lama
Originally published on blincventures.com