New Delhi: “In 2017, while commuting to work everyday I used to pass by a place called Banashankri in South Bengaluru. Banashankri used to have a huge garbage dumpsite and a dedicated person would put the collected waste on fire everyday, without fail. This cycle was happening from quite a long time but one day while standing at a signal, I felt very suffocated and claustrophobic and that is when the dump site with tonnes of waste on fire caught my attention”, recollects 27-year-old Shwetha Parshi, while speaking to NDTV. Witnessing the garbage on fire made Shwetha realise the extent of the waste crisis facing the city, so, she decided to take up burning of the waste issue with the municipal corporation. While Shwetha kept on lodging complaints, her protests fell on deaf ears, her partner (Naveen Gowda) who was a political party member also tried to expedite matters through various sources but the efforts yielded no concrete results.
During this time the duo happened to meet Vellore Srinivasan, founder of SLRM (Solid Liquid Resource Management) project which focused on waste segregation and management by the way of reusing and composting waste at source. The duo attended a two-day intensive workshop by Vellore Srinivasan to understand waste and how an individual can reduce his daily waste generation and stop it from piling up in landfills.
After the workshop, the duo decided to lead a low waste life in order to cut down the waste being generated only to end up in a landfill. From practising waste segregation that is segregating waste into dry waste (paper, plastic) and wet waste (vegetable and fruit waste) and composting the wet waste at home, to finding alternatives to regular plastic based products and reducing dependence on plastic by simply refusing to use it, they managed to attain a sustainable life.
During my initial days, I kept a jar to collect plastic waste generated by me and within few days, it was full. The jar was a reality check, echoing how tough it is to refuse plastic and a way for me to understand my plastic waste generation. It is then I decided to make small changes in my life and accept what I’m unable to do. Obviously it was challenging to lead a low waste life, something like as simple as I used to travel light but giving up single-use plastic outside meant carrying with you eco-friendly alternatives like your personal water bottle, a mug, stainless steel straw, cutlery, and other things. Also, all these alternatives came in plastic packaging only so in some or the other way, I was consuming plastic, says Shwetha.
Once the duo managed to identify products to lead a low waste and sustainable life, they unveiled Biomimic Theory, a brand offering sustainable products online, in 2018. Parallely, they entered into a partnership with Go Native restaurant to provide food grains, pulses, spices, and other things without packaging under the brand name Unpackaged. Elaborating on the same, Shwetha says,
We launched Unpackaged a plastic-free bulk food store offering high-quality organic grains, pulses, spices, cold-pressed oils, seasonal fruits, vegetables and more. At Unpackaged we would encourage customers to carry their own bags and containers to buy grains. If they are not carrying a personal container, they can take one from us in favour of a deposit.
After successfully running Unpackaged for four months, the duo decided to handover Unpackaged to Go Native as it was becoming tad challenging for them to manage both Unpackaged and Biomimic Theory. From then onwards, the focus has only been Biomimic Theory, solely Shwetha and Naveen’s child, as they call it.
At Biomimic Theory, we offer products that you can easily carry with you on a daily basis and use instead of giving in to regular single-use plastic products, explains Shwetha.
What Biomimic Theory Offers
A wet bag is a reusable bag made of garment production scrap fabric. It is especially designed to store damp clothes, towel, used cutlery, and fruit peels, while you are travelling.
The reason we made this is while travelling or commuting, no matter how much you avoid using plastic bags, you end up going back to it because you want to keep some or the other thing separately or away from your other stuff, says Shwetha.
Fab Array is an easy to carry alternative for disposable cutlery. The reusable cutlery kit consists of stainless steel spoon, fork, napkin, straw and natural bristle straw cleaner.
Bio Array is a fiber cutlery kit that contains neem wood cutlery, bamboo straw and a sisal fiber straw cleaner. Substitute to single-use cutlery is made available in a compact Palm Fiber Pouch.
The three most basic plastic disposable waste items are spoon, fork, and straw and that is the reason we have tapped into that zone. Our pack of eco-friendly cutlery comes in a small pouch which can easily be carried anywhere and everywhere. All a person needs to do is refuse plastic while placing his/her order and use the steel or wood based cutlery, says Shwetha.
It is time to get over the habit of buying a water bottle everytime you are out of your house and thirsty. Carrying a stainless steel water bottle like Biotle can solve the purpose.
Vibha, an architect by profession and currently a homemaker, is one of the proud owners of Fab Array – a pack of steel cutlery that comes in cloth pouch made using textile waste. Sharing her joy with NDTV, Vibha says,
I won’t say I lead a plastic and waste free life, but I’m trying my best. For instance, when my boys were born, I decided to make use of reusable cloth diapers instead of regular disposable diapers. Similarly, when I got to know about Biomimic Theory through a sponsored post on Instagram, I instantly followed them as they were sharing tips to lead a sustainable life on a daily basis and have amazing products to offers. I have a set of travel cutlery and now I wish to buy Biotle – stainless steel water bottle.
Over a span of one year, Biomimic Theory’s products priced between Rs. 450 – Rs. 1299 have reached 95 homes. Though the duo has sold 150-200 products pan India within a year, venturing into manufacturing and marketing eco-friendly alternatives to plastic was not an easy task for them. It took Shwetha and Naveen almost six months to understand the tactics of a business.
One of the biggest challenges is associated with our customers and their mindset. We spend a considerable amount of time on educating individuals about what we are doing, why we are doing, how plastic is harming us and our environment and why is it essential to lead a zero waste life, says Shwetha.
For the manufacturing of products like fiber case for wooden cutlery, cloth pouch, among others, the duo has joined hands with different groups – Kishkinda Banana Fiber Community, Arecanut Community and Satapute Stitching self-help group. Since these groups are based in different parts of the state, it becomes difficult for the team to communicate and create a new product. Everytime a new product is launched or being taken on a pilot basis, the duo has to travel to meet and explain their idea and execution to their teammates.
Despite this, the duo aims at continuing Biomimic Theory and coming with more sustainable alternatives to plastic. Sharing their future plans with NDTV, Shwetha says,
We plan to have more compact and modular products which are easy to carry and use on the go. Currently, carrying a plate is neither feasible nor a viable option for everyone, but a lunch box might work.
Considering the current status of waste in India, eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastics don’t seem like an option but a necessity. The duo wants people to have enough alternatives to single-use plastic items and for the same they are targeting other plastic items. For now, all the four products offered by Biomimic Theory can be purchased from their official website.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.