Plastic is one of the widely used materials in the packaging industry. It is because of its low cost, ease of availability and convenience. However, due to excessive use and its toxic property, plastic is posing a danger to the well being of the planet and its inhabitants.
To combat the plastic menace and provide sustainable alternatives, Anil, Aadesh and Abhishek Agarwal started Pappco Greenware - a startup that produces eco-friendly alternatives.
Speaking to The EarthView Abhishek Agarwal, one of the founders said "The innovation of using a natural fibre to create a disposable product has been around for the last 20 years. But unfortunately, because it does sell a little higher than plastic products it never found its way into the market"
It was in Singapore where the trio first came across bagasse products being sold in retail stores. After spending a year in research, the business commenced operations in 2012.
"Ours was a new company and there was no market for sustainable packaging in India at the time. India is a market that moves slowly in places where prices are high. That was the biggest challenge and building awareness around sustainable packaging was also important which was also a task during that time. Many people did not believe that. They mistook our products for plastic. Also, plastic products were much cheaper, compared to ours, which created an obstacle for sales. "
Pappco Greenware offers a variety of 150 different products ranging from plates to containers made from agricultural waste like sugarcane bagasse and bamboo fibres, sourced from North India and China.
The manufacturing process involves residual sugarcane called 'Bagasse' which is the dry pulpy residue left after the extraction of juice from sugar cane. It is then churned to a pulp and eventually moulded into quality tableware, with the help of high temperature and pressure.
If remain untreated, this bagasse release greenhouse gases such as methane, which is a major source of ozone depletion. Hence processing it helps create a value chain for the waste.
Bamboo and sugarcane fibres also take much lesser time to decompose as opposed to plastics, which take up to 90 years to degrade and styrofoam which never degrades.
The use of Bagasse can also reduce our dependency on paper as it takes only 1 year to be grown and harvested while paper can take up to 20 years. The production process also requires less energy and water.
Speaking about the response to the products he stated "The response has been terrific. With plastics bans coming in, brands are getting drawn towards the idea of going sustainable. Due to this, the market for sustainable products has exploded in the past few years."
He further said, "We are dealing with more than 2000 restaurants across India. We have operations abroad as well, in countries like Dubai, UK, Kenya, Uganda. We spent the first six years forcing our products into the market. Now, we have people coming to us asking for solutions to their plastic woes."
The startup is also running a campaign against plastics called "One less piece of plastic" The campaign is designed to promote the switch from plastic in restaurants.
"We wanted to highlight the fact that replacing one single item of plastic with a biodegradable alternative can go a long way. By opting for products made out of plant fibres instead of trees or non-renewable resources, we can reduce our footprint on the planet's ecosystem and move towards a circular economy," said Abhishek as he signs off.
Written By: Aaron Dias