Discarded flowers to turn into fresh paints

Last Updated: Monday, October 11, 2010 - 15:34

Kolkata: Thousands of beautiful flowers, which are thrown away daily after being used in religious rituals might get a fresh lease of life in the form of bright paints
on idols from next year.

Jadhavpur University`s chemical department is conducting lab experiments to find out ways to utilise the huge amount of flower waste to produce organic colours for painting clay idols.

The decomposed flowers are treated with an aqueous solution in high temperatures to extract the colours in a liquid form.

"We are extracting pigments from the petals of used flowers to produce floral paints. They have been applied on some idols on an experimental basis now. We are observing
issues like the durability of the paint and how it reacts to sunlight exposure before releasing it in the market," university`s pro vice-chancellor Siddhartha Dutta told
a news agency here.

The trials, by and large, have so far been successful.

"We are happy with the results that we are getting now. We have already started approaching artisans from the potters` hub of Kumartuli and hopefully from the next Durga Puja season, they will start using our organic paints," he said.

Besides collecting used flowers from the Kalighat and Dakhineswar temples regularly, they would also collect discarded flowers from various ghats in the city after the
idols are immersed this Durga Puja.

The fourth largest flower cultivator in the country, West Bengal`s 40 percent floral production is unsold and wasted every day and is either thrown in the waters of the river
Ganga or dumped along with other garbage.

An even larger quantities of flowers used during the state`s biggest festival of Durga Puja are discarded near the ghats in the absence of any infrastructure to recycle waste.

"All this adds to the existing environmental pollution in the city. Therefore our efforts will turn waste into wealth," said prof Dutta.

The university had earlier successfully used flower extracts to produce herbal gulal, bio-fertilisers and dyeing materials for textile fibre.

However, this is the first time that the varsity is using a similar technology to produce paints.

The state government is focused on marketing lead-free chemical paints among the artisans after it was found that the paints being used have a high content of toxic elements like lead, cadmium and chromium.

As over 50,000 idols are immersed into various water bodies each year in the state, it leads to contamination making the water unfit for the survival of aquatic life and drinking
purposes.

"Using lead-free colours is the solution. The quantum of our requirement is huge but the supply of such organic paints will be limited due to a scarcity of raw materials. It would
also prove costlier for idol-makers," said Biswajit Mukherjee, chief law officer of the state`s environment department.

Noted environmentalist Subhash Dutta, however, is of the opinion that only organic paints should be allowed for

painting idols.
"As long as the paints are chemical, they will harm our environment. Lead-free chemical paint is also not the solution as they still have other harmful chemicals. Only organic
colours should be allowed," he said.

PTI

First Published: Monday, October 11, 2010 - 15:34
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