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For an eco-friendly dining experience

Shweta Sharma, New Delhi, June 09, 2016, DHNS: 23:00 IST
Once while travelling on an airplane, Narayana Peesapaty saw some people use a piece of khakhra (tortilla-like cracker) as a spoon to scoop food. The episode stayed with him and he thought “why can’t I make a spoon one can eat?” Much before he reached home that evening, the spoon had already taken shape in his mind and soon he started manufacturing edible cutlery as a potential alternative to disposable plastic cutlery.

“The seed was sown in my brain up in the sky. Bakeys Foods was launched in 2010 to manufacture and sell edible cutlery. Our cutlery base is of jowar, rice and wheat and our spoons come in three tastes – plain, sweet and savoury. They are hard baked with no fat, preservatives, chemicals, and emulsifiers as in many baked products. They are 100 per cent vegetarian, vegan and biodegradable. They are crispy and can be used in hot and cold beverages as well. They will not melt for 10 minutes,” explains Peesapaty.
He adds that the products are either “to be eaten, put in soil to decompose, or given to cows, dogs, goats, and sheep after being used”.

While Bakeys is about edible cutlery, there are organisations which are riding high on the eco-friendly cutlery bandwagon and are using materials like plant fibre, rice husk, sugar cane pulp and wheat straw fibre to make tableware which are reusable and can help reduce the non-biodegradable waste that ends up in landfills.

“In India, such products are limited with equally limited players. After a lot of research we found that there are products made of sugar cane bagasse (fibrous leftover in sugar manufacturing), and husk,” says Harika Meka, founder, Save Globe, which uses natural plant leaf, cornstarch, bamboo pulp and coconut to make reusable tableware. and even bags.

“We also found out that numerous traditional non-plastic products like jute, cotton, coconut coir were used much before plastic conquered the market. So understanding the harmful consequences of plastic, we thought of coming up with a safe and sustainable solution which pampers the environment rather than harming it,” she adds.

Priced between Rs 2 to Rs 1,500 per piece, these products can be bought online, at supermarkets like Spar and Nature’s Basket, and are even being used at some restaurants.

“Our tableware products are for one time use. They are sturdier than other disposable products. Besides being 100 per cent biodegradable and compostable, products in the tableware range are also microwavable, freezer -friendly, water-resistant and grease proof,” says Sachi Maniar, who along with brother Yash, launched Shunya Alternative with a vision to create an ecosystem of environmentally-conscious consumers. They aim to bridge the gap between manufacturers and consumers, and be an instrument in solving environmental issues by providing sustainable alternatives.

Briefing Metrolife about their products, they say, “We zeroed in on sugar cane and wheat straw fibre after experimenting with materials like palm and areca leaves. Areca leaves are prone to fungus, especially in a humid environment like Mumbai’s. Bagasse and wheat straw products, on the other hand, are renewable raw materials made from agricultural waste. The final product is an aesthetically designed beautiful product and hence we choose to promote these.”

However, every success story has had its share of challenges. While for the Maniars it was strategic and business challenges, Peesapaty faced monetary and marketing issues, and at one point performed every duty from “watchman to chairman”. But for Meka, the challenges are “price, usability and awareness”.

“Plastic is affordable, easily available and has maximum usability, but it kills us, and our environment. So we need replacement. We survived for thousands of years without plastic and we know how to survive, but we are not interested. We want cheap and easy. But it comes at the cost of our planet. Prices of eco-friendly products will come down drastically with increased production and with market usage,” she says.


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