A family in sleepy village of Shishila, near Dharmasthala, is helping reduce the use of plastic by making eco-friendly plates using areca sheaths (leaves) for more than a decade.
A cottage industry of manufacturing such plates — also called bio-plates because they are biodegradable — started by Krishnaveni C Shekar, a homemaker, in 2001 in the village now provides employment to several women and men of the village.
“We started with producing two types of bio-plates with two machines,” recalled Ms. Shekar. Now the cottage industry attached to their home produces 22 types of bio-plates with 50 machines.
“Now we sell 20,000 plates daily,” Ms. Shekar said.
“There is more demand. We get orders for 25,000 plates daily. We are not able to meet the daily demand,” said her husband, N. Shekara Purusha.
The marketing network took their eco-friendly plates to Switzerland, West Asian countries and the United States. In addition, Ms. Shekar’s plates are sold at Coimbatore, Pune, Bangalore, Mysore, Hassan, Bellary, Hubli, Mangalore and other towns in Dakshina Kannada, said Mr. Purusha.
The woman entrepreneur said that a loan availed in 2010 from a nationalised bank under a Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) scheme helped the family organise the production and the marketing of plates effectively.
They collected leaves of arecanut palms from plantations in 50 km surroundings of Shishila. They paid Rs. 70 for a pack of 100 leaves.
The couple said that they faced severe problem in marketing in the initial two years as there was no demand. “Many times I felt like crying,” said Mr. Purusha. The demand picked up after the fourth year. Now they make flower vase, cups, caps and other fancy things from arecanut leaves. The plates depending on the type and size fetch them from Re. 1 to Rs. 3.50 in market. Rural women from Shishila, Shibaje, and Arasinamakki are employed in the industry.
The entrepreneur makes plates using areca sheaths