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Polythene from jute: Project on the brink of shutdown

  • Published at 12:22 am May 12th, 2018
  • Last updated at 12:32 am May 12th, 2018
Polythene from jute: Project on the brink of shutdown
Dr Mubarak Hossain Khan invented a way to synthesized polymer from jute fibre /Bangla Tribune

The synthesized polymer can be used to create a kind of bag which is indistinguishable from a Polyethylene or polythene bag, but without the damaging impact on the environment

Dr Mubarak Hossain Khan, a Bangladeshi scientist who synthesized a polymer from jute fibre, has stated that although the technology enjoyed its spot under the limelight, adoption towards public use has been disappointing.

The synthesized polymer discovered by the scientist can be used to create a kind of bag which is indistinguishable from a Polyethylene or polythene bag, but without the damaging impact on the environment.

In an exclusive interview on May 3, Dr Mubarak stated that without the necessary budget allocation and a dedicated institution, the “Polythene from Jute Project” could get shut down.

“The project, which is in dire need of at least Tk170 crore, is currently on the brink of shutdown. The red tape for fund allocation spans from Ministry of Textiles and Jute to the Finance Ministry, Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) and Latif Bawany Jute Mills,” Dr Mubarak added.

Dr Mubarak, who is currently serving as the scientific advisor of BJMC expressed his disappointment and concern over the delay in fund allocation.

He added: “We need separate budget, a unique identity and a dedicated institution for moving ahead with this project. For 100% implementation of this project, we need a budget of Tk170 crore. We have already requested the government for funds.

“I could not move forward with the project on my own, because I lack funds required to do it.”

Adding that Textiles and Jute Minister Md Emaz Uddin Pramanik, BJMC and the Latif Bawany Jute Mills authorities have been very supportive of him, Dr Mubarak said: “The government’s process of allocating the necessary funds is quite lengthy.

“The amount of bureaucratic red tape is quite extensive.”

No shortage of demand

Dr Mubarak pointed out that his project garnered an enthusiastic response from both domestic and foreign markets.

“We never even dreamt of this much attention,” he added.

Dr Mubarak Hossain Khan showing a sample of the synthesized polymer /Bangla Tribune

The “Polythene from Jute Fibre Project” has struck a chord with the local businessmen, and even more so from Europe, Australia, United Kingdom and the USA, and there is no shortage of demand.

The Australian government banned all forms of polythene bags from April 1st, 2018, and is searching for a viable alternative.

Dr Mubarak stated that an Australian team contacted him for updates on his project, and even called on the minister concerned for this purpose.

“I learned that a Japanese team also contacted the minister and reportedly mentioned a demand of 100 tons of synthesized polythene per day,” he said.

Adding that a Bangladeshi company also expressed interest in the product, the scientist said: “ASI expressed its interest in our product, as it needs 25 tons of plastic every day for packaging purposes.

“The company proposed to purchase polythene synthesized from 1500 metres of jute fibres, and we had agreed to the proposal. The company wants to test the synthesized polythene with their machines, to see if it is a viable alternative.”

Dr Mubarak mentioned that the Super Shop Association of Bangladesh also expressed its interest in this type of environment friendly polythene.

“A delegation from the association, led by its president, has visited our factory. A number of Bangladeshi garment factories are interested as well,” he said.

There is no shortage of demand for the synthesized polythene /Bangla Tribune

The Bangladeshi scientists termed the technology a milestone, and added that he is willing to accept any investor, both government and non-government, to help start mass production.

“Our factory can meet any production target, be it 100 tons, 500 tons or even 1,000 tons. We machinery we use, was built from the ground up by me. It is not available anywhere else,” he said.

Dr Mubarak is also ready to help anyone willing to adopt this technology.

Arduous funding process

Stating that he is a scientist, not a businessman, Dr Mubarak said: “Getting the necessary funds is an arduous process. The minister says funds will be allocated to the BJMC, but the BJMC points to Latif Bawany Jute Mills.

“I cannot predict how much each bag will cost, what will be the profit margin, total expenditure and the amount of financial risk involved. It is not my job to do this.”

He continued: “My job is to find new ways to improve my product, and while increasing production. I just want the government to ensure we get the necessary funds.”

When asked about the major hurdles against getting separate budget, identity and dedicated institution, Dr Mubarak responded that it entirely depends on the government’s interest in this project.

“The government must show its interest in this project. They should either provide me with necessary support for my work, or tell me to abandon it,” he added.

Dr Mubarak Ahmed Khan, who had served as the director general of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Research Establishment, warned that if the project fails, it will be for financial reasons.

“I requested a budget of Tk170 crore from the government for fully implementing the project. I have concerns regarding the allocation of the requested funds,” he said, adding that he left his job at the Michigan University of USA, for the sake of research.

This article was first published on banglatribune.com