Eco-friendly alternatives to plastic cutlery

Eco-friendly straws made from leaves of coconut trees.Special Arrangementmail

Eco-friendly straws made from leaves of coconut trees.Special Arrangementmail  

A plastic ban that has all but faded away, segregation-at-source that has failed to achieve the desired success, and a civic agency that is yet to find the ideal solution for waste disposal — Bengaluru has its set of solid waste management issues.

But a few citizens, instead of complaining, have taken it upon themselves to research and come up with unconventional, yet plausible solutions to replace plastic products, especially in the food industry, which is a bulk generator.

Eco-friendly straws

A curled coconut leaf in the college campus turned an inspiration for Saji Varghese, Professor of English at Christ (deemed to be University), who realised that a straw made of a coconut leaf may be a viable, non-polluting alternative to plastic, paper or bamboo straws. He started experimenting with the material and the result was ‘Doodly straws’.

The straws are made from dry leaves of coconut trees, making them 100% biodegradable, leaving no room for toxic waste generation. Mr. Varghese explained, “Coconut leaves have their own natural wax that is not harmful to humans. Once you steam pressure the leaves, the wax comes on to the surface and then, you have the hydrophobic straws.”

These straws can stay in liquid for more than 12 hours. If properly washed and preserved, they can be reused multiple times. As an additional benefit, the natural wax on its surface prevents any fungal attack.

He has been working with a team to build a semi-automatic machine that will aid in mass production and hopes to bring them into the market at a price that will encourage more people to opt for this eco-friendly option. His innovation won the second place at I2S@2017, a national competition organised by Unnat Bharat Abhiyan, last December. It has been featured in the Patents Journal of India. The project has received international recognition from the government of Denmark and it will be part of the Start-Up Denmark programme.

Compostable tableware

Samanvi Bhograj’s Visfortec Private Limited has been redefining cutlery in a plastic-filled world. The company manufactures 100% biodegradable and compostable tableware products from plant fibre. The products are priced between 90 paise and Rs, 12.

She started off with corn-based products, such as bin liners, cover for textile industry and cutlery. Today, the company produces more than 15 lakh pieces of cutlery every month.

The cost of products ranges from Rs. 2 to Rs. 2,000. For example, an edible spoon costs Rs. 2.5 while a biodegradable lunch box is priced at Rs. 800.

These products are made of bagasse pulp, which is formed and pressed at high temperatures to give it bonding and strength. The raw material for the products is ideally agricultural waste. “We have been conducting awareness programmes, especially in government and private schools, towards our long-term goal to reach a wider audience. Hopefully, people will understand the enormity of the problem with continuing with the use of plastics, and make a switch,” said Ms. Bhograj.

Another venture Save Globe — by P.V.S. Suhasan Reddy and Harika Meka — produces eco-friendly food packaging and kitchenware. They also have a line of edible spoons and forks moulded from wheat and corn starch.

Ms. Meka said, “When the plastic ban was enforced two years ago, we saw a surge in enquiries about our products, as people had begun to look out for alternatives. Though the vigour has dropped, the ban was a start for people to look beyond plastic.”

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