I chose to solve the problem of waste management but by approaching from the beginning. Plastic forms a major part of waste today and it causes difficulty during usage, waste management and disposal. This is my problem statement, "Over-use of plastics in today's world is causing damage to the environment and its inhabitants.
I had spoken too various people about my project and what they thought of it. I discussed it as just an idea at that time. Most of them felt it was a good idea and that it will have a great impact. Some off them suggested I go forward with it but investigate further and see if there are others who have already done it and whether this idea is a possible or not.
First I had to understand about the cuticle (figure1) and how it can be extracted from the leaf. After further investigation on the impact and the product itself, I started experimenting. But even after that I had to continue to research on different methods and the chemicals required. Finally I spoke to a professional scientist and learnt the best way to go about this.
I started my experiments. I made 5 prototypes in all and 4 out of them were failures.
Prototype 1: The method I used was boiling. I used 1 waxy looking garden leaf. I boiled it for 7min. The wax was slowly floating on the paper. I transferred it to a piece of paper and let it dry. I wasn't waterproof when tested. Problem- the amount of wax that was produced was not enough to coat the paper
Prototype 2&3: The method I used was boiling. I used A whole banana leaf and 10 beetle leaves separately. I did each experiment separately and coated sheets of paper separately. I wasn't waterproof when tested. Problem- the coating of wax wasn't continuous on the paper. I was told to increase the surface area.
Prototype 4: The method used was spirit extraction. I used quarter of a Lotus leaf and 75 ml of surgical spirit. I cut the leaf into smaller pieces, soaked it in the alcohol and left it for a night the next day the waxy layer of cuticle dissolved in the alcohol. It was slightly green due to the chlorophyll present in the Lotus leaf. I transferred it to a piece of paper and let it dry. I was waterproof when tested. Success!
Prototype5: The method used was spirit extraction. I used the cut pieces of half a lemon peel. I let it soak and transferred it to a paper. It wasn't waterproof. Problem- I didn't give the cuticle enough time to dissolve in the water. I ran out of days and alcohol.
I concluded that my idea was working and with correct implementation it can change a lot.
I plan on making the product more usable and flexible so it can work on all kinds of paper articles. I also will want to work on making this more aware to people working in this field. I want to make it more food safe so it can be used on the inside of cups as well and not just out side. I plan on creating a device that can do all the tasks.
One challenge I faced was getting the lotus leaf since it wasn't being sold in the markets close to me. I went to Kabini for a trip and collected the leaves from there.
The other challenge I faced was no being able to devote sufficient time to this wonderful idea. I tried to over come it by giving it some hours everyday at night.