When you go out on the road, what is that one thing you always find? Well, the answer is quite simple – the most common sight is the littered disposable plastic. Today, India is fighting hard to stop this white pollution, many startups are finding alternatives to plastic, meet one such woman entrepreneur from Bengaluru is fighting plastic waste woes with her innovative products – cutlery made from sugarcane. What’s great? Unlike the conventional one time used plastic cutlery, these products are 100% biodegradable and once discarded can decompose within 80-90 days’ time span.
Plastic is cheap and easily available and most of the time we tend to use it as a matter of convenience, but as a conscious citizen we need to be mindful. We often don’t realise that one small piece of disposable plastic can create a lot more harm to the society, says Samanvi Bhograj, founder of Visfortec Private Limited, a company that is providing alternative solutions to the conventional plastic tableware products.
The Many Harms Of The Plastic
Picture this – a fish gulps down a plastic carry bag discarded in a water body. As plastic waste can’t be digested by any animal it ends up killing the fish. The next result, the fish is dead and decomposes, but that plastic digested by the fish is released again into the water body. As Plastic is a non-biodegradable product, plastic waste never dies or disappears, meaning whatever plastic we have used so far can still be found in some form or the other in our ecosystem. India produces around 15,342.6 tonnes of plastic waste per day – that’s a lot of waste that is in circulation.
But Samanvi Bhograj, an electrical engineer has come up with a solution. She started searching for alternatives to plastic tableware about four years ago, “I come from an Industrial background and was always inclined towards working for the environment. I had the vision to replace plastic with natural materials and save our already depleting planet and that’s how I ventured into making the alternatives solutions for disposable plastic.”
Initially, in 2011, at a mere age of 25, Samanvi Bhograj started making compostable cutlery made out of corn waste, but, later after extensive research on her solutions she decided to make the tableware using sugarcane bagasse – the fibre obtained from sugarcane after extracting juice.
When I was on ground looking out for solutions to change the waste pollution game in India, I realised, that Indian market is not ready for products that are compostable. There are not proper facilities to compost in India and that’s why I started looking for more alternatives. Karnataka being the biggest producer of Sugarcane, and nothing is being done to tackle that waste, that’s when I thought why not I make a product that will solve two issues – agriculture waste and the big threat to the planet – disposable plastic pollution, added Samanvi Bhograj.
From food containers and tableware like plates, bowls, meal trays and cups, the company is currently making every possible cutlery in all the possible shapes and size so as disposable plastic can easily be erased from the market. Today, the company produces about 30 lakh pieces of cutlery every month and caters to organizations, restaurants and takeaway shops that need packaging material on a regular basis.
I am not looking to replace the plastic that can be used time and again, disposable plastic cutlery is a bigger threat, simply because of its lifespan and because the products are not digested by the planet, said Samanvi Bhograj who is selling the alternative tableware products at a reasonable cost.
The cups and bowls are for 95 paise and above, plates range from Rs. 2-Rs. 7 each. Meal boxes cost around Rs. 14 and the containers vary from Rs. 8 to Rs. 18.
Explaining the process of this good for the earth tableware, Samanvi added, Bagasse helps in giving shape to my products, it is moulded in different shapes, dried, heated, and then given aesthetical final touches. The process is completely natural and involves no binders, additives, coatings or chemical residues, resulting in a nontoxic, harmless and healthy alternative to plastic.
What’s more, these products are microwave-safe, have an estimated shelf life of two years and the users need to discard them after the use immediately.
It is an alternative to disposable plastic that’s why their lifespan is also short. But, the benefit is that the products do not pollute the environment in any way. When you discard them off, it is as good as throwing a leaf, added Samanvi Bhograj.
These products are available online and are also sold across India to restaurants, cafes, corporates. Samanvi hopes that one day these solutions will be readily available in the market and will become a known concept.
Speaking about challenges and why the market is still flooded with the non-biodegradable plastic products, Samanvi says, “The reason is simple, plastic is cheap and the alternative solutions are not. But, when plastic was introduced for the first time, it was costly too. When demand started to grown in the market that’s when the price of this commodity started to fall down. Same is the solution which we need for these eco-friendly products, the government should come out and help in building the demand of eco-friendly products.”
Demand issues kept aside, Samanvi also highlighted that to sell these goodies to people was not a cakewalk, “There is lot of ignorance about the harmful effects of plastic, what’s worse people are not aware how plastic is damaging the planet. My motive was never to sell products but to educate the masses that why there is a need to make this green switch.”
The green waste warrior signs off with a message –
We need to start living the way our grandparents did. Once we are gone, what remains is what we have used during our lifetime. The choice is with us, choose wisely and live a green life.