NEW DELHI, Sept 14: Researchers from 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 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 the industrial growth and ecological
preservation,” he added.
Purkait said in order to address these issues, his team has carried out cutting age research on the
diversified application of tea factory waste to various pharmaceutical and foods products. These
carbonaceous pharmaceutical materials form the basis for a broad spectrum of application-based
The findings of these studies have also been published in various international journals including
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
“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.