BY Apurva Govil
Plastic bags, despite being banned in certain states, continue to dominate the sales-purchase arena. That they are a hurdle to the environmental, taking an aeon to decompose, goes without saying.Last year Karnataka suspended use of all forms of plastic bags and other plastic items. But four years ago, in 2012, Mangalore City Corporation had banned the sale and manufacture of plastic carry bags. It was then that Mangalore based entrepreneur Ashwath Hegdehad thought of an alternative. Along with 11 others, including global scientists and environmentalists, he worked on an innovative project.
After researching the problem for about four years, Ashwath founded EnviGreen – a company that produces 100% organic, biodegradable, and eco-friendly bags.
They look like plastic bags but are made of materials like natural starch and vegetable oil derivatives. If placed in a glass of water at normal temperature, an EnviGreen bag dissolves in a day. And when placed in a glass of boiling water, it dissolved in just 15 seconds! These bags take less than 180 days to biodegrade naturally once discarded. So users can throw them away without worrying about harming the environment. The bags are even edible and will cause no harm to animals if ingested.
“We are using a patented technology using natural starch, vegetable oil derivatives and vegetable waste,” says a company official emphasizing that the products are non-toxic to the environment, both animals and plants. “Conventional plastic bags are toxic and harmful. EG bags can biodegrade 100 per cent in less than 80 days.”
For raw materials, the company is procuring vegetable wastes from farmers’ associations while importing vegetable oil. “We are buying vegetable waste directly from the farmers of Karnataka, which is highly profitable and a great source of alternate income for the farmers,” says Hedge. Apart from carry bags, the company is also manufacturing trash bags, oil and grease sachets, bin liners, packaging films, aprons wrapping covers, laundry bag, hotel guest kits. Only one drawback — they cannot carry liquids and semi-liquids.
The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), which has approved the use of these bags, conducted several tests to ensure there were no plastic elements in them. The tests included placing a hot iron on a small piece of EnviGreen sheet. The sheet neither melts nor sticks to the hot iron surface. The bags also don’t melt, drip, or release any toxic fumes when burnt, unlike conventional plastic bags. They have been tested by the Central Institute of Plastic Engineering and Sriram Institute for Industrial Research as well.
To prove his point, Ashwath has even consumed a bag after boiling it in water to show that it is edible.
Currently, the company has not started full-fledged sales in India, but the bags are already available in Qatar and Abu Dhabi.Once available for use, EnviGreen bags will not just help ease this problem but also help many consumers struggling to find a balance between their concern for the environment and ways of making things more comfortable in their daily lives.