The plastic problem, and some solutions

Penning a new chapter

Of course, plastic rules my life even after spurning it hard but speaking specifically of pens, right at this moment, I admit having 10 plastic pens. Two in my bag (I would like to believe it to be occupational hazard but honestly I can do away with it) and eight sitting pretty in the pen stand at home, at any given point of time. And I am not own alone in this crime. Add numerous people using disposable ballpoint pens and imagine the plastic waste we generate.

Reportedly, Americans throw away 1.6 billion disposable pens every year. Disposable pens is a problem bigger than we think and there are a few solutions.

When pens grow into a tree

Lakshmi Menon’s Pure Living pens are made out of recycled paper and is plantable. Called Entree pens and labelled ‘With love’, these pens are handmade by a small group of women including her, her mother, her 94-year-old Alzheimer’s afflicted grandmother and differently-abled ladies from the community. At the bottom of each pen is placed the seed of Agastya (Hummingbird tree) to be planted.

The pen is priced at ₹12 and can be ordered online at Amazon or procure directly from Pure Living by writing to them at 2pureliving@gmail.com. No limit on quantity but the courier charges will have to be borne by the buyer. Lakshmi was just appalled by seeing plastic everywhere in Kerala, famed for its natural beauty. “There are around 46 lakh students in the State, so you can imagine the amount of plastic going to the landfill. The permanent solution is fountain pens. Why can’t schools like so many rules, pertaining to uniforms, exams, code of conduct, also make the use of fountain pens mandatory? Entree pens are an interim solution, till the time we go back to fountain pens,” says Lakshmi.

Small flags giving out information about the product and the seed, are attached. Also, on its surface is printed Malayalam alphabets in a bid to propagate the language.

Lakshmi isn’t just conserving nature through this initiative but also generating employment and contributing to the ancient knowledge of Ayurveda. She also wants to share the knowledge of making these pens so that everyone can make and use eco-friendly pens. “There is a video on YouTube in which I have shown the entire process. Anybody can make these pens but my only concern is quality.”

Seed pens

There is another option from Divya Shetty and Vishnu Vardhan’s Coimbatore-based Plantcil. The pens are made from recycled cardboard and also contains seeds of vegetables like mustard seeds, sunflower seeds, chilli seeds, tomato seeds and daisy white seeds, that can be planted after the pen has been used. The pens are priced at ₹13 and can be ordered directly from www.plantcil.com and Amazon.

The duo is also trying to make these pens available through its franchisee. “But we want it to be strictly women self-help groups. It has to be self-sustainable and we give complete buy-back guarantee,” says Vishnu. Plantcil with a semi-automated machine is able to produce 3-4 lakhs pens every month, of which a sizeable quantity comprises international orders.

Plantcil is now focussing the research on making the pens completely recyclable, including the refill and also doing R&D on a machine which can upcycle plastic into artefacts.

(Where we offer earth-friendly alternatives for everyday products)


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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 9:01:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/penning-a-new-chapter/article24025228.ece

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