A wise alternative

A wise alternative
With plastic bags banned in many cities for their harmful impact on the environment, cloth and canvas bags soon took their place. Though some thought it was a good move by the government, others felt that these bags were eventually turning out to be heavy on the pocket.

In a situation where people were still contemplating about whether or not to use plastic bags and pay as much as Rs 15 for a cloth bag, Ashwath Hegde was dedicatedly working towards solving this issue with an alternative to plastic. With the help of his friends, after four-and-a-half-years of research and development, he finally came up with ‘EnviGreen’— a venture which produces bags that are organic, biodegradable and even edible for animals like cows.

“My main aim was to come up with something that is reasonable in terms of cost and is an alternative to plastic. We first launched the product in Qatar in February last year, as a part of our pilot project ‘Go Green Qatar’, in association with the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, Qatar. Then we finally launched it in India in August,” says Ashwath.

Though he says that there are many organisations which work with palm leaves to make paper and plates, he has not yet come across anyone who has worked on an alternative to plastic. So how did he come up with a concept like ‘EnviGreen’? “When the ban on plastic was implemented by the Mangalore City Corporation some years back, there were no planned alternatives that were thought of. Though there was an availability of paper and cloth bags in the market, not everyone could afford to have an expensive bag for a few things that they buy. That’s when the idea of working on an alternative came to my mind. Though the product looks like a plastic bag, it is made of 100% natural resources,” says Ashwath.

Materials like natural starch, tapioca, potato, vegetable waste, banana peel and vegetable oil are used to produce these bags. On how they are environment friendly, Ashwath explains, “Every rainy season, we see manmade floods across the city, which is primarily a result of plastic waste clogging the drains. This is when ‘EnviGreen’ bags offer a solution; as soon as these bags come in contact with water, they dissolve within a few days, whereas when they come in contact with hot water, they dissolve within seconds. Moreover, when these bags are burnt, they don’t burn like plastic and emit gases that are harmful for the environment; rather, they burn like paper and also take a few days to biodegrade naturally once discarded.”

These bags can be used in supermarkets, restaurants, at medical stores and other places instead of the regular plastic bags. Though Ashwath says that these bags cost a bit more than the normal plastic bags, the cost is way lesser than that of cloth bags. In fact, ‘EnviGreen’ bags are already being used in some of the departmental stores. “We are planning to collaborate with a few plastic manufacturers around the city to start with, and help them adopt the technology we have used. This way we will do our bit to make the environment plastic-free and also provide people a source of income,” says Ashwath.

As for the challenges, he says that educating people and breaking their misconception about the alternatives is a difficult task. “To make them understand that these bags are more of compostable plastic and there is no use of chemicals is difficult,” he says, adding that they are planning to expand the venture across India and the world in a year’s time.
 
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