With the growing focus on circular economy, the market space for biodegradable, recyclable and reusable material is set to increase
The Indian government’s recent ban on single use plastic has created an opportunity for sustainable packaging manufacturers.
Start-ups are exploring the use of biodegradable, recyclable and reusable material. They are also encouraged by the growing awareness in consumers, who are mindful of the environmental footprint of the products they use.
Prianka Jhaveri, co-founder, The Mend, says, “With the rise of green warriors, proliferate advertising, and alarming climate news, more customers are granularly analysing the impact of their purchases and spending their rupees with companies that boast of business practices that consider the planet and its inhabitants over their bottom-line.”
The Mend manufactures compostable bubble wraps made up of bioplastics, biodegradable paper bags made up of hemp, water activated tape that is plastic-free and starch- based, plantable seed paper boxes, mailers made of bioplastic sourced from corn-starch, etc.
Jhaveri says, “The Mend is India's first sustainable packaging company.” It also helps its clients with “end-to-end solutions right from packaging design to manufacturing and execution to creating solutions for circular packaging, including disposal options”.
Zerocircle, a start-up founded by Neha Jain, uses a bio-ingredient, seaweed, as an alternative to plastic packaging. She says, “In the case of petroleum-based plastics manufacturing, making pellets from crude oil is an extremely energy intensive process. In contrast, Zerocircle pellets are derived from a carbon negative biomass (seaweed), which is sourced locally and harvested sustainably.”
Jain adds, “Our products are made from one of the most regenerative and fastest growing resources on the planet – the seaweed.”The packaging is made on the basis of green chemistry. The end-of-life cycle of the product is planet positive. She adds, “Zerocircle products naturally degrade in soil and water. At the end of its use, the product can be thrown into any community composter or a home compost bin and it will break down harmlessly leaving nothing behind except healthy compost.”
The seaweed packaging is ideal for foods and beverages, fashion industry and the consumer products markets. The start-up endeavours to eliminate “hidden’’ and “visible’’ forms of plastic used in packaging.
Another major material that is widely used and is difficult to degrade is the glittery packaging paper. An alternative to this is a result of learning from abroad. A traditional method called Furoshiki that originated in Japan is gaining traction in India now. A clothing fabric is used to pack the gift and after serving its purpose it can be recycled.
The search for alternatives for thermocol is also on. Thermocol is used for packaging various materials. It is generally a single-use packaging material. Recycling thermocol is not possible and either it has to be compressed and dumped in soil or it has to be burnt. Even the production process is emission intensive, causing harm to ozone layer. To deal with this, a start-up, Phool, is making Florafoam using temple flowers. It is biodegradable, economical and at the end of use can be dumped in the garden. It decomposes in 45 days, the Phool website explains.
UK-based start-up Polymateria, which works in India as well, has initiated world’s first of its kind biodegradable solution for plastic packaging called biotransformation technology. Niall Dunne, ceo of Polymateria, says, “Products made with Biotransformation Technology can be recycled, but if they escape waste streams they will fully biodegrade on land within two years leaving no microplastics or toxins behind. Furthermore, plastics with Biotransformation technology look and feel exactly like conventional plastic for their entire service life, offering manufacturers both a convenient and sustainable solution without compromising on quality."
With the growing focus on circular economy, the market space for such products is set to become bigger and bigger. Dunne says, “Polymateria embraces the 3 Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle – but says it has added a fourth R, redesign. Biodegradability and recyclability need to work hand-in-hand to successfully tackle the global challenge of plastic pollution. That way materials can be kept in circulation as long as possible (the mechanical cycle) and safely return to nature as everything must eventually do (the natural cycle).”