Plastic was seen as a path-breaking innovation when Alexander Parkes, its inventor, exhibited Parkesine, the first man-made plastic, at the Great International Exhibition in London in 1862.
More than a century later, plastic is still in rampant use, despite its harmful effects on the environment. People argue that it is affordable, lightweight, and durable, and hence convenient.
According to a report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2017, India alone generates around 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste a day. Though many alternatives are available and there is constant awareness surrounding how harmful the substance is and why we must bring down its usage in our lives, plastic still remains a part of everyday life.
Here are a few startups that are making an effort to make our planet cleaner and greener with products that are unique, innovative, as well as environment-friendly.
Mumbai-based Pappco Greenware produces a wide range of food packaging items including food streamers, paper straws, lunch plates, and wooden cones. All the products are eco-friendly and that’s the premise on which the company is based on.
It was started by Anil Agarwal, Aadesh Agarwal, and Abhishek Agarwal who learnt about bagasse (sugarcane waste) products, a compostable alternative to plastic.
Anil then visited more than 50 different factories in six months to understand the product and its processes. But they had to face many challenges, important among them being educating people of the need to switch to eco-friendly products and differentiating their products from those made of Styrofoam. For months, they kept meeting potential buyers and retail stores and were bootstrapped all this while.
Today, Pappco caters to many food and beverage (F&B) clients including the Taj Group of Hotels, Marriot Hotels, Reliance Retail, Curefit, Social, and The Bombay Canteen.
Pune-based startup BlinkGreen makes fashionable footwear using tyre scrap under the brand name Memital. Its founder Pooja Apte-Badamikar, while researching different methods of upcycling, came across tyre scrap.
In October 2018, she presented two prototypes of fashionable footwear whose soles were made from tyre scrap at Startup Yatra organised by Startup India in association with the Maharashtra State Innovation Society. She won a cash prize of Rs 50,000 at the competition and was also judged as the Upcoming Woman Entrepreneur.
For the sole of the footwear, Pooja uses truck tyre scrap she sources from an 80-year-old ragpicker in Pune, and the colourful cloth that goes into the design is stitched by tailors before the cobblers handcraft the product. Besides being environment-friendly, the footwear is also durable and lasts longer than those available in the market. Pooja designs the footwear herself and hopes to thrive in the unorganised sector with her unique creations.
Pooja pursued an engineering degree in Electronics and Telecommunications, and worked at Capgemini for four years. She also completed her MBA in renewable energy before starting BlinkGreen.
Mumbai-based Beco’s journey started in 2017 with four engineers. The founders - Aditya Ruia, Anuj Ruia, Akshay Varma, and Punit Batra - spent a year researching on alternatives to plastic and the company was registered in 2018. Today, it manufactures trash bags, kitchen towels, and tissue rolls made out of bamboo pulp and corn starch-derived polymers. Beco’s products are packaged in craft and recycled paper.
The company claims it is currently the only brand in India manufacturing disposables and tissue paper products from bamboo polymer. Currently selling in over 1,500 stores in Mumbai, the founders hope to launch the brand in over 5,000 stores by the next financial year and expand to other markets like Pune, Rajkot, and Ahmedabad.
Ahmedabad-based startup EcoRight sells eco-friendly bags with an emphasis on design to attract customers. Founded in 2017, the bootstrapped business kicked off with a few tote bags. Last year, the company’s revenue touched Rs 2.25 crore.
EcoRight was founded by Udit Sood and his father Sanjiv Sood, who launched the brand in India and the US via Amazon, and has now expanded to other countries in Europe, and Australia, and Canada.
EcoRight has also developed its own material called Juton, a mix of cotton and jute.
“Jute is sturdy but it always doesn’t look great, while cotton is soft and looks nice but is not as sturdy. So, we blended the two,” Udit told YourStory in an earlier interview.
After bagging a prestigious licensing agreement with Disney, the company hopes to launch 10 more product lines this year.
Pune-based Aarohana Ecosocial is creating art from plastic waste by upcycling non-biodegradable and non-recyclable plastic into fabric. It uses handlooms and traditional charkhas to spin the plastic fabric and make handbags, accessories, and home decor products.
Founded in 2013 by Amita Deshpande and Nandan Bhat, the two met as a part of a trekking group to Harishchandragad, a hill fort in the Western Ghats. On their trek, they were appalled to see the amount of plastic waste littered at the site. Soon after, Amita left her job at KPIT Cummins, enrolled in a sustainability course at Purdue University and connected with Nandan to start Aarohana Ecosocial.
The founders went to tribal areas in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, taught villagers hand-weaving and set up a unit in a tribal village and employed around 13 people with a fixed pay between Rs 6,000 and Rs 15,000 a month.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)