The sea seemed to be telling Mumbai, ‘Take your trash back’ as it threw up a whole lot of garbage with the high tide on July 14. A quick look at that garbage was enough to establish the presence of plastic in large quantities. Though it is a matter of debate whether Mumbai threw those tons of garbage into the sea or it came from somewhere else, fact remains that nature is fed-up.
And, as is an oft narrated fact, if we do not check our plastic consumption by the year 2050 there would be more plastic in the sea than fish. That is only the tip of the iceberg! An entire encyclopaedia can be written on the damages plastic can cause!
Mumbai is finally waking up to this reality and Mumbaikars are realising their responsibility. A few believe that the plastic ban in Maharashtra and BMC’s aggressive stance on it are not justified – but our belief is that it is a step in the right direction. If there are glitches along the way, the same would be smoothened in course of time.
The demand for biodegradable alternatives to plastic has seen an increase. More so for compostable bags, cutlery items, cloth and paper bags and straws. Most food courts and restaurants have shunned plastic cutlery completely. Even online purchases are being delivered in cardboard boxes as usual but without the inner plastic covering.
The common man is also more aware and trying to do his/ her bit. Not very many people insist on getting a plastic bag from vegetable vendors or at the milk booth; and even if they do, they are politely refused. A super beginning this, and perhaps the advent of a more socially responsible business.
A number of initiatives have come to the fore – most of these already existing ones, till now sidelined as the cost favoured plastic, and others, as a response to plastic ban. We have encapsulated a few here:
Shunya Alternatives, run by siblings Yash and Sachi Maniar, sources plates, bowls and glasses made of sugarcane fibre and birch wood from artisans in Delhi. Anahata run by Alok Banerjee makes soup bowls, plates, and spoons using areca leaves, which is nature friendly.
Bags Forever is an initiative by Manish Kelshikar towards good looking reusable bags. The company caters to wholesale as well as retail buyers. Biogreen Eco-products, owned by Mohammed Sadiq makes compostable bags out of vegetable starch. It also makes starch cutlery. The products are easy on the eye and eco-friendly.
Cosmos Corporation, Darshak Shah’s Mumbai Central based company sources crockery and cutlery made out of areca leaves from a Bengaluru based manufacturer. Sanat Thakkar owned company Shreeji Industrial Engineer offers boxes, bags and trash bins made of recycled craft paper largely in B2B space. Neeyog, a Suresh Jhunjhunwala owned company, trades in products made of bagasse and other biodegradable materials. It largely sources its products from Noida and Ahmedabad.
Pappco Greenware, owned by Abhishek Agarwal, has over 200 products including crockery, paper straws, paper bags and compostable drinking cups largely made of sugarcane and bamboo fibre. Living Essentials, owned by Sachin Bawaskar has a very interesting concept. It supplies edible spoons made from multigrain wheat-rice-ragi-maize flour. Eight variants are available: masala, black paper, chocolate, ajwain, mint, beetroot, spinach and plain multigrain spoons.
Bakeys Foods managed by Narayana Peesapaty, a former researcher with The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Andhra Pradesh is another venture into edible spoons. Eartha Eco Solutions portfolio includes all naturally made products that are 100% compostable.
Strawng, a self-help group run by Arpita Kalanuria, makes straws out of banana leaves. The initiative is not only working at making biodegradable products, but is also giving employment to women in need. Unnati Mahila Bachatgat, another self-help group is into making attractive and colourful cloth bags. Hard to believe that these bags are being made from used clothes!
Delux Recycling Pvt Ltd is into recycling plastic waste and making consumer products. It even recycles detergent packs, chips packets, chocolate wrappers, carry bags into composite sheets which are used as an alternative to wood products. These sheets can be used to make doors, panels, garden benches and more.
Rebot is into bottle crushing. Products like T-shirts, bags and shoes can be made from recycled bottles. The company has tied-up with the government and Reliance Group to set up these machines at metro stations as well. IRCTC has also begun installing plastic bottle crushers at major suburban stations, including Mumbai CSMT, Kalyan, Mumbai Central, Dadar and LTT, for plastic bottles, cups, plates and other disposable items.