18-YO Innovates Low-Cost Grow Bags By Recycling Plastic Bottles and Runs A Successful Business
The mantra that most urban home gardeners live by is “reuse and recycle”. For that reason, most uses discarded drums, refrigerators, and several other household items to grow their plants. However, these can add extra weight to a building’s structure or could occupy a lot of space.
Petroleum-based plastic nursery pots, flats, and trays are convenient. They're lightweight, yet durable, easy to ship, and building-friendly. Most can be recycled or reused. Trouble is, they usually wind up in the trash.
An estimated 31 million tons of plastic waste was generated in 2010, reports the Environmental Protection Agency. Only 8 percent of it was recycled, a disturbing figure when you consider the agency says it can take 100 to 400 years for plastic to break down in a landfill.
One way to help reduce plastic waste in your gardening efforts is to use plant containers made from recycled materials!
As an eco-conscious solution, 18-year-old Jinay Gada, a resident of Mumbai, has made lightweight grow bags from non-woven fabric. In July 2021, he launched ‘Planteria’ and began marketing these grow bags across India.
The grow bags are made of non-woven fabric extracted from plastic bottles and covers. They are sturdy, regulate water drainage, and promote air pruning.
To date, he has sold over 300 bags.
A lockdown project
When the first lockdown was announced back in March 2020, Jinay, a student of K J Somaiya College of Science and Commerce, began gardening at home. He grew various flowering plants like roses, some plants from cuttings like money plants, and even tried growing fruits and vegetables.
However, when he wanted to purchase lightweight planters for his balcony, they were either made of all-plastic or were too expensive. He took matters into his own hands and decided to make his own version of grow bags.
“I wanted them to be lightweight and in line with the urban gardener’s mantra — reuse and recycle,” says Jinay.
After researching a bit, he understood that grow bags were also made using fabric. Soon he purchased a few on a trial basis. The first few pieces he bought were either too flimsy or had other issues like improper water drainage or they did not promote root growth.
“So I decided to stitch the grow bag by purchasing material.”
Sourcing the right materials
In April 2021, through suppliers in Surat, Gujarat, he sourced non-woven fabric made from discarded plastic collected in landfills.
Many people were offering this material, so he had to test how much weight the material could hold, how porous it was and how sturdy it was before finalizing a supplier. All the grow bags, for trial, were stitched by local tailors near Jinay’s home.
Once he was satisfied with one of the suppliers, he purchased the material in bulk. He made extras so that close friends and family who also took up gardening as a hobby would benefit from the same. The final grow bags were lightweight and could drain water from the sides and bottom. Owing to its porous texture, there is air circulation from all sides, which promotes fast root growth.
He got them made in four different sizes, and priced them nominally between Rs 50, for the smallest to Rs 120 for the largest. Within two months of launching the products on his social media handle, Jinay received 200 orders from all over the country.
Hari Prasad, the owner of a nursery in Tirupati heard about Planteria’s grow bags through a Whatsapp group for farmers. He says that it is better than the gunny-bag type of grow bag as it is sturdier and has more space for ventilation. He agrees that It is also easy to handle because of the handles provided on the sides.