New Delhi: Single-use plastic products are everywhere; our addiction to plastic is severely affecting the environment. According to United Nations Environment Programme, around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute. However, with the growing awareness around the perils of plastic, there is a growing demand for alternatives to single-use plastic. Many start-ups across the country are introducing reusable and sustainable alternatives. On World Environment Day 2021, let’s pledge to restore ecosystem by taking small steps like giving up plastic. Here are five homegrown brands that can help you make the eco-friendly switch.
Live Zero Waste The Bare Necessities Way
29-year-old Sahar Mansoor form Bengaluru carries a 650 gram jar containing all the waste she has produced in the last five years. This includes, medicines, granola bars when she is doing long-distance bike rides, contact lens cases, chocolate wrappers and other things. Ms Manoor not only follows sustainable living but also promotes it through her start-up ‘Bare Necessities’, a company that produces eco-friendly and sustainable personal care, home care and lifestyle products.
Ms Mansoor’s zero waste journey started in 2014, when she came across 24-year-old Lauren Singer in New York who led a zero waste lifestyle. Living in a metro city, it was challenging for Ms Mansoor to give up non-recyclable products and initially, due to lack of expertise, she had to do a lot of research before purchasing an eco-friendly product. However, she didn’t lose hope. From giving up food coming in plastic packaging to switching to eco-friendly alternatives like bamboo toothbrush, steel lunch box, Ms Mansoor took one step at a time and before she knew it, she was generating bare minimum waste.
Later in 2016, in an attempt to promote a zero waste lifestyle in her city Bengaluru, Ms Mansoor started ‘Bare Necessities’.
What is the first thing you do after you wake up in the morning? You brush your teeth; so we replaced plastic toothbrush with bamboo. The idea is to recreate all the products that we use on a daily basis into more sustainable ones, said Ms Mansoor, founder and CEO.
In the last five years, Bare Necessities has diverted 29 million plastic units from going into our landfills and sold over 47,000 zero waste products across the country. The products are available on Bare Necessities official website and 60 stores in India. To ensure no plastic waste is generated during online delivery, reusable glass jars are wrapped in cloth scraps collected from local tailor and paper scraps from the printer. The product is further packed in a corrugated box and packed with paper tape.
At their headquarters in Bengaluru, the company also offers a refill programme as part of which, individuals can bring in their own containers and get them filled with the product of their choice.
Along with this, Bare Necessities works as a knowledge hub to encourage behaviour change; they offer online courses and workshops on zero waste and sustainability.
Ahmedabad Man Is Providing Stylish Alternative To Plastic Bags
5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year, states UNEP. After their use, plastic bags make their way into water bodies polluting the environment and threatening marine life, with many confusing it for food and consuming it or choking in the process. Apart from marine animals, other animals and birds also end up consuming plastic which is dangerous. The reckless plastic consumption and the ways it harms the planet, prompted Udit Sood from Ahmedabad to do something about replacing plastic bags. Mr Sood along with his friend Nikita Barmecha, both IIM-Calcutta graduates started EcoRight in 2017 – a brand offering stylish eco-friendly bags.
Going eco-friendly is not a matter of choice but a necessity today. Poly bags are used for one time, but they end up poisoning our land forever. The idea was to give solutions to the citizens and stop the usage of plastic bags forever. And with this very thought, EcoRight was born, said Udit Sood.
EcoRight offers a wide variety of bags – tote, sling, cosmetic pouch, shoe bag, grocery bag, and lunch bag – made using organic cotton and recycled plastic bottles. All bags are priced between Rs. 299 and Rs. 1,499 and can be shopped through the official website and other e-commerce sites. Since its inception, EcoRight has sold 2.5 lakh bags in 48 countries.
People ask for sustainable bags that they can use daily – take to work and party. We have introduced water resistant organic cotton bags. They are lined with recycled plastic bottle fabric, so we are using existing plastic waste and at the same time not creating any new waste. Recycled plastic bottle line was launched around five months ago and since then we have recycled 50,000 plastic bottles, said Udit Sood, co-founder, EcoRight.
The brand is now also trying to expand to essential items like adding bamboo toothbrush and face masks to its portfolio.
We humans made plastic; we can make things sustainable too, said Mr Sood.
Bengaluru Start-up’s Mantra – Shop-Drop-Swap
Did you know, a family of four spends atleast Rs. 3,000 a year on plastic waste? How do you ask? Well, our eyes are so oblivious to plastic that we don’t realise that almost everything we purchase is packed in plastic. Every time we buy a product, we are paying anywhere between Rs. 1 to 7 for a single-use plastic packaging. Let’s take an average of Rs. 5. A family of four buys about 50 products a month. A quick and simple math takes the amount to Rs. 3,000. We as consumers fund the plastic waste and pay the cost, literally, said Shyam Sunder, co-founder of Cleanlabel, a Bengaluru-based company that delivers organic essentials in reusable packaging.
In December 2020, Shyam Sunder, an academician along with his wife Deepa Channabasappa founded Cleanlabel to promote clean and conscious living through clean food and packaging. The seed of the idea was sown a decade ago when Mr Sunder’s mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness and in-depth research reflected that the disease was a result of one’s lifestyle – eating more processed food. The family switched to eating organic and fresh food. Six years ago, when the couple had their first child, they started scrutinising labels to know if a product is healthy or not but very rarely, they would find all the details about additives and emulsifiers on the packaging.
Healthy eating was accompanied by Mr Sunder’s love for nature and sustainable living which eventually gave birth to Cleanlabel – a brand that not only sources and provides organic food straight from farmers but also ensures no plastic waste is generated in the process.
We realised that eating organic food is not enough. If we want to live sustainable, we need to make other lifestyle changes like ditching plastic. A natural marriage of clean food and clean living took place and Cleanlabel was born, said Mr Sunder.
The company follows Shop-Drop-Swap system. A consumer can shop from a range of 80 products currently available online and get them delivered in reusable, plastic-free packaging for a small, refundable deposit. The entire order will come in a tote bag. On the next order, the consumer simply needs to swap the tote bag with old, used containers for the new ones. Explaining the process, Mr Sunder said,
We don’t even use paper labels; it’s printed on the bottle itself. We sterilise the old containers and put them back on the shelf and for the process, we charge Rs. 2 from the deposit. Let’s say you buy a bottle of groundnut oil. You will pay for the oil and Rs. 40 as a deposit for the bottle. In your next order, you will get a new bottle in exchange for the old one and Rs. 38 back. If you are a member, you will get Rs. 42. If you don’t return the container within a stipulated time (it differs from product to product) then money will be forfeited. We want to use each container at least 100 times.
Cleanlabel’s circular economy system is currently available only in Bengaluru and as per Mr Sunder, it has garnered a positive response and often customers ask the duo to add more products to their portfolio.
We have pretty much what you need for a home. But we don’t have a wide variety like we don’t offer white sugar; only brown sugar and jaggery.
While talking to NDTV, Hariprasad Shetty from Bengaluru and a Cleanlabel’s customer said,
Reusable is not novelty; convenience became more powerful and hence came the plastic in our lives. When we were kids, we would get milk and soft drinks in glass bottles. Why have we shifted to single-use plastic now?
We have around 250 customers and an average consumer buys 12-15 products a month so that ways we would have diverted around 12,000 units of single-use plastic since December 2020, informed Mr Sunder.
Eco-friendly Tableware That Decomposes Within 60 Days
With an aim to change the world through sustainable packaging solutions, 45-year-old Ved Krishna from Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh took the entrepreneurial mantle at Yash Pakka, a pulp and paper company in 1999. However, in the process, Mr Krishna realised that most of the materials used in packaging, especially food, were either laminated, plastic-coated, or covered in cellophane that were harming the environment. The epiphany about the massive amount of non-biodegradable garbage produced each day prompted Mr Krishna to conceptualise CHUK, a brand of eco-friendly tableware in 2014 and officially launch it in 2017.
Following the circular economy approach, CHUK produces an innovative range of compostable tableware products which are made from locally-sourced sugarcane fibre called bagasse, untreated with any kind of chemicals. We use the fibrous stalk to make the pulp using which we manufacture our tableware products. Bagasse pulp not just makes products lightweight and flexible, but also strong enough to prevent leakage or spillage, explained Ved Krishna, Vice- Chairman and Strategy Head, CHUK.
From bowls, plates, trays to containers and lids, CHUK has a wide range of products priced between Rs. 2 to Rs. 10 which according to Mr Krishna is comparable to a good quality plastic plate.
Within two years of its launch, CHUK received one of its biggest orders from Indian Railways of supplying 15 lakh pieces in 32 of its premier trains. Over the years, CHUK has worked with various brands and is currently supplying its products to major airports of India, five-star hotels such as The Park and Hyatt, and food chains and organisations like Haldiram’s, and Lite Bite Foods, and other entities like Google, HMS Host, Inox, PVR, Amazon, Devyani International, Chai Point and Starbucks. CHUK products were also used in actor Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh’s wedding reception in Bengaluru in 2018. The company deals with both businesses and individual consumers who can shop from CHUK’s website and other e-commerce sites and retail stores.
Though the brand is well established, it faced numerous challenges in the initial stage, for instance, pulp based products are brown in colour and to make them look white and clean, bleaching, a chemical process is followed. But the company decided to keep the product raw and eco-friendly and chose brown. The challenge was to make it acceptable in a market. Secondly, to scale the production of pulp, as the company planned to double the capacity each year, they had to establish state-of-the-art machinery. Thirdly, it was important to understand how food was consumed which meant introducing variety of tableware in different shapes and sizes.
Talking about CHUK products, Sourabh Bapna, co-founder, Tapri Restaurant in Jaipur said,
In our restaurant, utensils go through various stages of cleaning to ensure good hygiene which requires a lot of water and manpower. But, Jaipur is a kind of a dry state facing water scarcity. To address both the issues and at the same time, not harm the environment, we moved to single-use compostable tableware. Initially, there was an issue of the bowls becoming soggy within minutes of putting hot food in it but now they have improved the strength of the product and we have not faced any issue.
Ditch Your Regular Single-use Tableware And Opt For Edible Ones
At some or the other point in life, we all have licked spoons, bowls and plates but ever wished of eating up the bowl because the content in it was scrumptious? Well, Shaila Gurudutt and Lakshmi Bheemachar, ex-IBM employees have made this possible with their edible tableware. Recalling the idea behind the initiative, Ms Bheemachar from Bengaluru said,
Both I and Shaila wanted to do something for the environment and help in whatever little way we could. In February 2017, I quit my job and came back to India. After a couple of months, together we started brainstorming. We wanted to create a product that is sustainable and doesn’t create any kind of waste and that’s how came the idea of edible tableware.
The duo received guidance and support from the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) – Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL. After months of research and development, in June 2018, they started commercial production under the brand name ‘EdiblePRO’ and initiated their start-up ‘Gajamukha Foods’.
Initially, the brand offered only a bowl and spoon but now they have 20 products including plates, and chopsticks in their kitty. The duo offers 50-60 varieties in terms of flavours and colours. Elaborating more on this, Ms Bheemachar said,
We customise products like make them sugar-free and gluten-free. If someone requests for a particular coloured plates say red, we use natural ingredients like beetroot, spinach for green colour. To promote the concept of sustainability among children, we have introduced teddy-bear shaped chocolate spoons and alphabet-shaped cutlery for kids.
Ms Bheemachar informed that the tableware has received an approval from an FSSAI-certified laboratory in Bengaluru and can hold both extreme hot content like soup and cold like ice cream without losing its strength. One can either eat the cutlery or dispose of in a compost pit. The tableware is priced between Rs. 3 and Rs. 100 and sold globally through EdiblePRO’s official website.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.
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