Managing Plastic Pollution: Know How This Tamil Nadu-Based Startup Is Creating Biodegradable Alternative To Plastic Bags

Image Credit: Unsplash, PlastIndia

The Logical Indian Crew

Managing Plastic Pollution: Know How This Tamil Nadu-Based Startup Is Creating Biodegradable Alternative To Plastic Bags

Established in 2020, GreenPlast is a Coimbatore-based startup that has created a biodegradable alternative to plastic carry bags. The startups' water-soluble bags and pellets are easily dissolved or composted and sturdy and rainproof.

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To say that plastic pollution is one of the most pressing environmental concerns we face today and that plastic waste is fast morphing into a mammoth crisis is not an understatement. The United Nations is poised to approve a plan to create the first-ever global plastic pollution treaty, which is being touted as one of the most important resolutions since the landmark 2015 Paris accord.

When it comes to plastic pollution, plastic bags are the primary source of contamination as it takes years and even decades to decompose. Further, they release toxic gases into the air when burnt and emit poisonous substances released into the soil when they perish under sunlight, posing a severe health issue.

According to a report titled Global Plastics Outlook Economic Drivers, Environmental Impacts and Policy Options by OECD, the plastic waste generated per person varies from 221 kg in the United States to 114 kg in some European nations and 69 kilograms in Japan and Korea. While only 9% of the global plastic waste is recycled, plastic consumption has quadrupled over the past 30 years, driven by growth in population, income levels, and emerging markets.

With close to 30 metric tons of plastic waste in seas and oceans and a further 109 metric tons accumulated in rivers, it suffices to say that the situation is indeed a matter of grave concern. Indiscriminate use of single-use plastics like straws and carry bags only compounds the problem on hand.

Established in 2020, GreenPlast is a Coimbatore-based startup founded by Kavitha Rajan and her late father, Veeraswami. It has created a biodegradable alternative to plastic carry bags. The startups' water-soluble bags and pellets are easily dissolved or composted and sturdy and rainproof.

The company claims that the products are made with a water-soluble polymer that is non-toxic to the environment, animals, and plants. The bags also do not leave a residue of microplastics as they are devoid of plastics.

How Did This Idea Come?

In 2013, Kavitha's father embarked on a journey to find an alternative to plastic bags. For his research, he went to countries such as Japan, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, and China to understand the plastic replacement products on the market.

He discovered that there is a technology to make daily-use organic bags that are biodegradable. Still, he was surprised to learn that the primary raw materials for manufacturing these bags, biodegradable pellets, are not made available in the market to save the plastic industry.

He realized that the only way to solve the plastic problem is to make the raw materials for plastic substitutes easily accessible. He set up a comprehensive home lab to research how to create water-soluble pellets that can be blown into films and made into bags.

He pioneered finding an alternative to throw-away plastic way back in 2016. After further research and constant experimentation, he successfully installed his first pilot project in Coimbatore with 125 tons per month capacity in late 2020.

Biodegradable Alternative To Plastic

According to the company official, all products ranging from pellets to bags are made from water-soluble polymer (PVA), processed starch, vegetable oil derivatives and other non-plastic additives. These products are non-toxic to the environment, animals, and plants.

The company claims this startup is the only manufacturer of hot-water soluble, biodegradable pellets in India. The biodegradable, water-soluble pellets are built using their uniquely formulated proprietary formula, a breakthrough technology.

An excellent replacement for single-use plastic bags, these bags are manufactured in specially customized machinery units and can be quickly dissolved or composted after usage. The company features hot water and cold-water-soluble bags.

Challenges To Find An Alternative

Founder of PlastIndia, Kavitha Rajan, while talking to The Logical Indian, said, "When my father started GreenPlast, one of the key challenges was the elasticity and the blowing stability. If there was too much starch, the film could not blow well. If it was too much vegetable oil, the oil started oozing out of the films. It took around a year to bring this stability and the balance between starch, oil, and PVA."

She added that we have a monthly capacity of 125 Ton for pellets and 40 Ton of films/bags. We have gone commercial since August 2021, and since then, we have reached around 10-15 Ton per month. We have a few clients in Kenya, Dubai, and Chile for our pellets and three in India who take our pellets to manufacture their water-soluble pouches and bags.

'Does This Work Like A Plastic?'

Rajan said that when we claim this is an excellent replacement for plastic, the customer's first thought is, "Does this work like plastic?"

Because this looks like plastic, it need not work like plastic. If it works like plastic at the same cost, it will have the same properties as plastic. The idea of a replacement is that this must be compostable or in any way safely discardable, she added.

These water-soluble bags/films will look like plastic but behave like a paper bag when drenched in the rain. According to the company, the customers' mindset when they hold a cloth bag in the rain is that they must keep the bag safe so that the items in the bag don't get drenched in the rain. Similar should be the approach when they hold a water-soluble pouch.

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