Mumbai: ‘No waste can be wasted,’ with this notion discarded clothes, sugarcane waste, plastic bottles, waste chips packets, old newspapers, were on display, except that these waste items are beautifully recycled and repurposed into useful products. The products are on display at the three-day plastic alternative exhibition organised by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) ahead of Maharashtra’s ban on plastic on June 23. The purpose behind the exhibition, is to provide alternatives to the banned plastic items like plastic bags, disposable plastic products – spoons, forks, cups, plates, glasses, bowls, and containers, disposable thermocol items and Plastic or thermocol decoration products.
The exhibition which is on at the National Sports Complex, Worli till June 24, has over 60 different stalls, each stall providing unique alternatives to plastic items. From start-ups, self-help groups (SHGs), NGOs to big companies, recyclers of varied items took part in the massive exhibition. While majority of the stalls offered plastic bag alternatives, there were stalls that offered edible cutleries, eco-friendly nurseries, furniture made from recycled plastic.
Among the several organisations present, a bunch of saree-clad women from SHGs also proudly displayed their creations which has cloth bags, pouches, etc. There are 16 wards in the city and each one of them has tied up with the SHGs to manufacture cheap cloth bags to replace the plastic bags in the market.
One of the SHGs named Unnati Mahila Bachatgat showcased the most attractive set of colourful cloth bags. When quizzed about the cost incurred to procure the cloth material for the bags, Vedika, a homemaker smiled and said,
We collected all the old-torn clothes from people, reused and gave them a fresh look.
The group which consists of ten women has been putting extra hours everyday since the ban was announced in March to meet the increase in demand of cloth bags.
Then there is Pappco Greenware, an orgnisation that makes cutlery out of sugarcane bagasse, which has also been trying to cope with the increase in demand for their products.
“Post the announcement of the ban, the market dynamics are changing. Earlier, we used to go the eating places and convince the owners to buy our products but now the tables have turned. In the last two months we have received orders from innumerable restaurants but now the problem is the insufficient supply,” said Abhishek Agarwal, founder of the company. The stall had every type of eco-friendly cutlery on display right from lids, plates, bowls, spoons, straws to food containers.
While Abhishek company’s provides cutlery that eventually ends up in landfill and biodegradesfast, an organisation named Living Essentials is offering eatable cutlery. The aim is to not let any material manufactured by the company reach the bins. Made from multi-grains, there are eight flavoured spoons like ajwain, masala, spinach, beetroot, chocolate, and so on. “As individuals we must take every step we can to protect our planet and this is our bit,” said Siddarth Jain, co-founder of the company.
While some of the oganisations provide alternatives to plastic, some are recycling the plastic waste and making consumer products. For instance, one stall has a bench that is made entirely from 250 kilos of plastic waste.
We recycle detergents, chips packets, chocolate wrappers, carry bags into composite sheets which are used as an alternative to wood products. These sheets can be used to make doors, panels, garden benches and possibly everything that can be made out of wood. The products that we make are 100 per cent water proof, said a representative from Delux Recycling Pvt Ltd. On an average the company recycles 1,000 tonnes of plastic waste every month.
A 65-year-old woman, who after an inspiration from a DIY video, reused lakhs of wrappers and chips packets to make gift products like fruit baskets, door mats, containers, and so on.
However, among all the products, it is a 7-feet eco-friendly temple that has grabbed the most number of eyeballs. Thermocol, an item that is widely used as decorative items takes 1,000 years to decompose and as a solution to that the Utsavi charitable trust has come up with eco-friendly temple and decorative items.
Earlier we used to manufacture thousand kilos of thermocol every month to make decorative items. It was in 2001 that we realised its harmful effects and from then onwards we switched to paper/cardboard temples. These temples are unbreakable and can sustain themselves for ten years. And even if it is disposed of, it will take less than two days for the temple to biodegrade. From kids to old people anyone can assemble the temple, said Shyam Shendkar, founder of the organisation.
Even as the stall owners are excited about introducing their eco-friendly products to rest of the world, Mumbaikars are a little apprehensive about finding the right alternative to their products.
I am here to explore the alternatives to plastic food packaging. Our company provides tea, sandwiches, bakery products and we package them in a thin film warp. We cannot do away with it as the food will get spoilt. The plastic ban is definitely a good initiative, but the eco-friendly alternatives are very expensive, said Shareef, an employee at Chai Point.
Likewise, a group of housewives from south Mumbai were also at the exhibition to find plastic alternatives, “From bags, dabbas, bins to bottles, my family uses a lot of plastic items. I am eager to make the switch and this exhibition is really helpful,” said one of the housewives.
The plastic ban was notified three months ago on March 23 and from June 23 onwards, the ban will get implemented across Maharashtra. Anyone found in possession of the banned plastic items will be fined Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 for first and second-time offence respectively. Whereas, a third-time offender will be fined Rs 25,000 and can also face three months of imprisonment.