Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati have developed pharmaceutical and food products from tea factory waste, according to officials.
As per a recent study, tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages worldwide with world tea consumption reaching 6.3 million tonnes and is expected to rise to 7.4 million tonnes by 2025.
"This huge increase in tea consumption leads to an increase in industrial tea waste generation which leads to non-utilisation of valuable agricultural resources and deterioration of the environment. Because of its high lignin and low inorganic content, efficient utilisation of tea industry wastes demands scientifically advanced techniques," said Mihir Kumar Purkait, Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Guwahati.
"Addressing these waste utilisation and management issues becomes paramount as it aligns with sustainable practices and innovative solutions, ensuring both industrial growth and ecological preservation," he added.
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Purkait said in order to address these issues, his team has carried out cutting-edge research on the diversified application of tea factory waste to various pharmaceutical and food products.
These carbonaceous pharmaceutical materials form the basis for a broad spectrum of application-based commodities. The findings of these studies have also been published in various international journals including the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, Chemosphere, Critical Reviews in Biotechnology etc.
This research has been carried out by Somnath Chanda, Prangan Duarah, and Banhisikha Debnath as a part of their PhD thesis work in the Centre for The Environment of IIT Guwahati.
"The convenience and health benefits of catechin-based capsules open a promising avenue, offering users access to the advantages of catechins without the necessity of multiple cups of green tea. This caters to the increasing demand for antioxidant-rich supplements in our daily routines.
"The lignin-rich spent tea leaves are transformed into activated carbon through a specialised reactor. This involves a dual-step procedure: first, carbonisation, which converts lingo-cellulosic biomass into a carbon-rich matrix; then, activation, which creates a porous structure, enhancing adsorption properties for wide range of applications that includes," he said.
Some of the applications include -- food grade activated carbon as an alternative to synthetic food colorant to impart blackish, hues; natural-based mild abrasive material in toiletries such as tooth paste and body washes; low density and light weight pharma-grade and chemically inert carbon as a pharmaceutical ingredient in solid-dosage forms as diluents; non-selective adsorptive properties of microporous carbon used in anti-pollution masks and as a deodorant in socks and use in packaging to prevent moisture assisted degradation or spoilages.
"The commercial potential of these products is substantial. For instance, the demand for catechin-based health supplements and organic preservatives are on the rise among health-conscious consumers and food processing companies.
The immediate future plans for the project involve advancing towards advanced pilot stage leading to the imminent Transfer of Technology (ToT) phase to potential industry partners.
"These value-added products not only enhance the economic viability of tea cultivation but also encourages sustainable practices by reducing waste and promoting resource efficiency," Purkait said.
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