Plastic pollution can be likened to an indestructible monster that rears its ugly head everytime you cross heaps of discarded non-biodegradable trash that is taking over our cities. It’s easy to see why plastic is such a hit; it is convenient, does its job well, and is so versatile that it can be used pretty much everywhere in everything. But once its work is done and discarded, it poses a massive threat to the ecosystem – something many of us like to forget for its sheer usefulness. As our environment has deteriorated at alarming rates, the awareness of its realities has given rise to some pretty incredible innovations providing everyday, useful alternatives to this material that is so embedded in our lives. Today we recognise some of the efforts by creative Indians and entrepreneurs across the country who have worked relentlessly to provide us with these eco-friendly options – from bags to cutlery, packaging and more.
The following is presented in no order of preference.
Qatar-based NRI entrepreneur Ashwath Hegde has provided us with a truly revolutionising product - a 100% organic and biodegradable alternative to plastic bags. Made from 100% organic and biodegradable materials like natural starch, potato, tapioca, corn, vegetable oil, banana, and flower oil, the bags are not only eco-friendly, they’re also edible! They will not cause harm to animals if ingested - so no more wincing every time you see goats, dogs, and cows munching on bags. The bags are designed to dissolve in a glass of water at room temperature within a day, and boiling water within fifteen seconds. Even if these bags are chucked out on the street they will naturally degrade in less than 180 days.
EnviGreen bags are currently available in Qatar and Abu Dhabi, however, in India, they are only available in Bengaluru’s big retails chains like Metro and Reliance.
Bakeys are basically edible spoons, made of millet, rice and wheat. Plastic cutlery makes for a big part of the problem, and this is Haryana resident Narayana Peesapathy’s answer to it. So now you don’t just have to eat with your cutlery, but can choose to eat your cutlery too! But if you’re not in the mood, you can choose to discard it and it will decompose in less than a week. It is sturdy enough to be used to consume hot substances, is free of preservatives and has a shelf life of three years. The spoons are made by drying and hardening—baking them at a high temperature in in-line ovens, which significantly removes the water content within the raw materials. The removal of moisture is key to their long shelf life, moreover, it’s available in different flavours.
But will they be able to replace plastic spoons? Considering the current cost of his products, people might be a little apprehensive. Of course, once people understand the benefits of his spoons in the long-run, it might increase his consumer base. Narayana claims he can make his products as cheap as plastic spoons once he is able to get a market big enough to sustain his brand. According to Bakey’s website, one-and-a-half million people have already made the switch.
Eco-friendly straws made of either bamboo or stainless steel serve as an alternative to plastic straws. They are reusable, eco-friendly, food grade, lead-free, and flavour free. Bamboo is an organic decomposing material that can be used for some time and then discarded. Stainless steel, on the other hand, can be used indefinitely. Designer-turned-environmentalist Rhea Chhabria, along with her partner Suraj Nair supply to hotels and restaurants, and have successfully converted a number of bars in Mumbai towards using eco-friendly straws.
Their straws can be purchased here, and over Whatsapp on +919769320031
Thaili is an initiative that makes eco-friendly cotton cloth bags, while also heavily promoting the 3R policy – Refuse (plastic bags), Recycle (old cloth for bags) and Reuse (cloth bags). In order to reach their goals, Thaili calls out to people to get involved in their initiative through schemes like ‘Social Gift’ that includes a pack of 10 recycled bags at Rs. 120. These bags can be given as a social gift to your friends, workers, drivers, watchmen, or anyone who you think needs a cloth bag. The cloth bags are made of recycled cloth, upcycled waste cloth, or fresh cloth.
Patradya, a Delhi-based project by The Enactus Group which comprises of students from the Kirori Mal College (KMC), produce edible utensils in an effort towards a plastic free world. Enactus is a non-profit organisation that looks out for a community afflicted with poverty, unemployment or social exclusion and builds a business model around the skill set of that particular community.
According to Patradya’s website, their biodegradable bowls are made by a community of Afghani refugee women settled in the Bhogul District of Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi. These edible bowls are made using multi-grain victuals like ragi, millet, wheat; they also come in chocolate flavour! The proceeds of the project go to the makers, the Afghani women and serve as a way of financially empowering them.
VI. Eco-friendly menstrual products
For those looking to make greener choices a number of environmentally-friendly, plastic-free and sustainable options have come up to the traditional sanitary pads and tampons. If you’re headed the way of menstrual cups there are a plenty of international brands that retail online, as well as Indian companies like SheCup and Silky Cup, to name a few. And if you’re apprehensive about using cups then there are natural and reusable pads such as Jaioni’s cloth pads that are free of chemicals like bleach, gel, and other additives; Eco Femme’s range of reusable cotton pads and Saathi which makes biodegradable pads using compostable material like banana fibre.
You can read more about eco-friendly menstrual products here.