Eco-friendly alternatives to plastic

0

India generates a whopping 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day and by 2020, our consumption is expected to increase exponentially. If we have to eliminate plastic from this earth, every individual will have to make a concerted effort. Usha Hariprasad attended a fair where a wide range of plastic alternatives were exhibited that will help us make the switch to eco-friendly products.

Recently, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) had organised a fair to promote eco-friendly alternatives to plastic. Titled ‘Parisara Snehi Vastugalu’ – environment friendly products, it boasted of more than 70 stalls displaying a wide array of plastic alternatives. A number of colourful brochures were put up at the event. Some of them made you think. For instance there was a heart-tugging poster that said ‘Don’t feed plastic to sacred cows that provide you milk’. The event was also informative. It came as a shock to know that Karnataka was one among the top five plastic producing states of India.

Karnataka had banned the usage of single use plastic three years back. The banned items were carry bags, flags, banners, flex, polystyrene plates, spoons, cups, cling film etc., all made from plastic .However certain plastics were exempted from the ban such as diary products, bags and sheets used in forestry, etc.

However Bengaluru has been rather slow in implementing this. Despite conducting raids on shops in the city and imposing fines, plastic continues to be in use. In an effort to bring in awareness and also to showcase viable alternative to plastic, the BBMP had organised this fair. And to lead the way, BBMP has stopped using plastic disposables in its offices and in public meetings.

A wide array of products

The fair showcased tonnes of environment friendly products. Here is a brief look at some of them.

Sanitary napkins

Every year India has to dispose of 12.3 billion sanitary napkins, most of them non-biodegradable. The plastic in sanitary pads is inorganic and does not biodegrade. Chemicals used to bleach pads are unsafe causing problems such as skin rashes, urinary tract infection etc. Organic pads made from cotton are also not so great either — they are water intensive as cotton requires gallons of water.

So the fair provided an alternative – Saukhyam Reusable Pads made from banana fibres. The pads were made of banana fibres and cloth. Banana fibres are astonishingly good absorbers, a lot better than cotton, and most importantly they degrade within 3-6 months. Banana tree fibres are agro waste. When a banana tree is cut, the fibres are extracted out of it. The recyclable pads last for a good four years, saves money and are eco-friendly. Saukhyam has budget friendly options like the Essential line of pads. Their starter pack begins at Rs 330. And can be bought online.
Other eco-friendly options come from brands such as Eco Femme, Saathi Pads etc.

Return gifts

We often buy gifts such as Barbie dolls, super heroes, plastic toys, etc., for children. However a stall at the fair caught my eye. It offered something unique–seed pencils. Made from recycled paper it works like a regular pencil. When the pencil becomes short, invert the pencil and plant in soil. The end of the pencil comes with seeds and if watered daily will germinate within a week or more. This stall by Sangeetha had other interesting products – toothbrushes made from wheat, corn brushes, diyas made from cow dung that burn completely and get rid of mosquitoes.
Another alternative is to gift saplings of flowers, herbs etc. It is an innovative way to get children interested in gardening and helping them connect with nature.

Recycled paper

An interesting stall was from Compact Innovation Avenues. It displayed note books, diaries, plain printing paper, bags etc., all made from recycled paper. ‘We can save about 17 trees, and 30,000 litres of water per ton of recycled paper if we switch over to this option,’ explained a representative from their team. The product titled ‘Ethical Paper’ is unbleached thus conserving water. The paper therefore is not your usual bright and white colour that you normally use. You can order copier paper, notebooks, files, conference pads etc., from their online website – Recycledpaper.in

Straws

Something as innocuous as straw made a headline in 2015.It was a video that shocked the world – a sea turtle was wounded with a plastic straw stuck in its nose. Single use, non-biodegradable, it is a dangerous type of waste that harms marine life. As an alternative to this useless straw there are other eco-friendly choices. Straws made from bamboo is one of them. These were getting sold as cheap as one rupee in the fair. The benefit of using this straw is that these are reusable. You just have to wash them and allow them to dry. You can soak them frequently in hot water to give an extra edge. There are health benefits too. Plastic straws have polypropylene and contact with hot liquids can leach out chemicals. Bamboo is a safer alternative free of chemicals. After a couple of uses when you see significant wear and tear you can just break them and bury them.

Eco Products, Pappco, Bamboo India are some brands from where you can buy such straws.

Food packaging

Very often we carry food that’s hot in containers made from food grade plastic. These are touted as safe. However an essential compound of such plastic containers is BPA. Though approved by FDA it is still unsafe. BPA leaches out at high temperatures. So they cannot be used in microwaves or to store hot liquids. Their effects on our body are alarming. They interfere with our hormonal functions. So what’s the alternative?

Enter Chuk that manufactures plates, bowls, trays, containers – tableware which are completely compostable as they are made from agri waste. And microwave safe. These products are all made from sugarcane waste and are a great alternative to plastic coated food containers. They are lightweight yet strong enough to prevent leaks.
Apart from Chuk, there are other companies like Pappco too that work with such alternatives.

At the fair there were local manufacturers like Shree Enterprises who promised idli, cake, sweet boxes (containers?) as well that were 100 percent recyclable without using plastic lamination.

Composting

Composting is a novel way of getting rid of kitchen waste and turning it into black gold for soil.

Daily Dump a household name in the city provides a variety of products for home and community composting. They have a variety of products – starter kits, home composters, community composters, leaf and garden composters etc. For home composting they have units like the Kambha, Gobble and Chomp. For community composting they have products like Aaga. This is a hot pile composter and comes in pairs for every 20-25 homes. Their products are available at purchase on their dailydump website.

Our country generates a whopping 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day and an average Indian generates 11kg of plastic every day. By 2020 it is predicated that our annual plastic consumption would cross 20 million tonnes. If we want to eliminate plastic we have to personally make a switch to such alternatives. And fairs such as these are of great help in connecting citizens, corporates, manufacturers and distributors together.


Usha Hariprasad

Usha Hariprasad is a freelancer who is fond of travelling, discovering new places and writing about travel related destinations around Bangalore at Citizen Matters. Currently, she works in a trekking organisation.

Comments

comments