Back in 2015, Bengaluru-based independent consultant Arun Balachandran pledged against using plastic in his household and started looking for alternatives.
Unable to find these in the market, a determined Arun sat down to fold newspapers into dustbins. “How difficult could it be?” he remembers thinking.
Turns out, it wasn’t all that easy. After the first few fails, he finally figured out the best way to fit newspaper linings in dustbins for environment-friendly waste disposal – by using maida as glue and jute threads to enable decomposition.
“We started using that in our home and visitors took notice – one is so used to seeing a black polythene wrapped around a bin that anything different is a shock,” he recalls.
What began as an experiment soon showed potential for a business opportunity. And Arun, with his wife Jyoti Pahadsingh, formed Greenbug (gogreenbug.com), a sustainable alternative to plastic waste liners, selling it online through Amazon.
In Maximum City, Dhawal Jain has been manufacturing compostable bio-plastics for over three years now.
“Today, awareness about repercussions of using plastic products extensively is high,” he says, adding that the recent plastic ban the state saw early in March ensured that people woke up to the issue.
It is this awareness Jain plans to nurture with his initiative, Truegreen. The sustainable project concentrates on the manufacturing of bio-plastics as a replacement for conventional plastic bags.
Made from compostable materials such as cornstarch and vegetable oil, bio-plastics are completely biodegradable and come with a shelf life, unlike their harmful counterparts.
There is, however, a thin line that differentiates bio-plastics from conventional plastic, elucidates Jain.
“The plastic industry in India uses the word ‘biodegradable’ very loosely. Factually speaking, all compostable products are biodegradable since they decay organically, but not all biodegradable items are fully biodegradable,” he begins.
“One needs to understand that plastics are made from complex chemicals. When a brand is selling you biodegradable plastic, what they are really selling is an additive they added to this chemical mix.
This breaks down the plastic to finer particles, but it doesn’t completely compost these particles,” he explains.
This is the sole reason that Jain doesn’t label his bags biodegradable; he prefers being precise, so he lables them ‘compostable’.
With a shelf life of roughly 180 days, these bags decay naturally when they come in contact with soil, water and oxygen.
Similarly, Mumbai’s Aditi Shah has been working on a sustainable living project that promotes the use of green technology, Apro Greentech, which also makes compostable bags.
“Our bags self-decompose a decent 60 per cent within 120 days; the remaining 40 per cent within the next 60 days,” says Shah.
In the past, Shah, co-founder of Apro Greentech, she has been involved in spreading awareness about sustainable living.
For these compostable bags, Shah receives enquiries from housing societies and vegetable vendors.
Even meat sellers have contacted me for bags. It only shows how eager people are to move away from plastics.
Contrary to popular belief, compostable plastic makes for more than just conveniently storing meat.
“Conventional plastic creates a vacuum on the inside restricting air passage through the bag. However, because bio-plastic is sourced from natural ingredients, there is air movement that keeps the meatfresh for another 24 hours,” explains Jain.
At the moment, Jain’s bags are mass produced and consumed by mostly corporates. “Our bags are sourced by hypermarkets such as Reliance Supermarkets, D-Mart, and Big Bazaar,” he lists.
Jain awaits necessary permissions to fall into place for retail selling of these bags.
He is confident that by the end of this month, Truegreen will serve not just corporates, but also local markets at large. However, if your pledge to go green is more urgent, Shah’s Apro Greentech and Arun’s Greenbug will ensure a more prompt delivery at your doorstep.