August 21, 2008
h/l: With love from Pune: thermocol furniture
intro: First of its kind plant readies to turn waste thermocol into 100% remoldable furniture at cheap costs
Mumbai: While thermocol is a great material to build models out of or to pack away that old TV set, it is the bane of waste recyclers. It neither burns nor does it reduce to invisible units, and if set alight, the result is a molten mess that solidifies when cool and gives off acrid vapours.
Hence, Dr Rajendra Jagdale, Director General of Pune's Science and Technology Park (STP) helped set up a very special plant at Ranjangaon that would tame the otherwise monstrous thermocol into a friendlier avatar. In layman's terms, the plant would treat discarded thermocol to mould it into furniture items that are cheap, durable, recyclable and fire-proof. Interestingly, items made of this material can be used even for street furniture and picket fences.
"The thermocol is converted into fine powder, after which it undergoes a special process that makes it ready in the form of sheets. These can then be used to make a variety of things ranging from floor panels to window frames," Dr Jagdale told Sakaal Times.
The facility and the technology is the first of its kind in the country, though the technical know-how originates in Korea. "The Ranjangaon plant is almost ready, after which the manufacturing process using the treated thermocol would be done at another unit at the MIDC area," Dr Jagdale explained.
He is understandably excited at the prospect of using thermocol in this manner. "Ranjangaon is home to a host of electronics industries, and the area generates about 10 tonnes of thermocol waste daily. The civic conservancy workers do not pick up thermocol pieces since you can't destroy the material. Ragpickers too steer clear of it because one doesn't get more than Rs 3 per kilogram of thermocol while selling it," he explained.
The ecological and monetary benefits far outweigh any concerns about the costs of setting up and running the two plants in Pune. Once ready, the material looks just like wood but it is much lighter. Plus, several tests on the completed material have proved that it is waterproof and termite-resistant, it can withstand temperatures up to 900 degree Celsius and hence it is fire-proof and the best part is, it can be broken down completely and moulded into something else.
"Basically, you can use items made from treated thermocol in any season and in any manner since there are no hazards attached to it and it can't be easily damaged. This is an eco-friendly attempt to create lasting furniture without resorting to wood, thus saving trees," Dr Jagdale said.
Getting furniture made out of it would also be cheap at Rs 75 per square feet, a fraction of the cost as compared to wooden ply. An environmental benefit would be the chance to earn carbon credits if one gives up waste thermocol directly to the plant.