Coimbatore Startup Innovates Alternative for Plastic Bags Using Vegetable Oil
While climate change can seem to be on an unstoppable march forward, the last decade has seen some wins for environmental causes too. One major victory for the environment has been a decrease in the use of plastic bags like those used at grocery stores.
Cities around the world have banned them, and many consumers have opted for reusable bags—all in a joint effort to reduce waste. However, sometimes these seemingly good choices have unintended consequences. Even though many have stopped using small plastic store bags, their larger counterpart has been on the rise.
Trash bags, commonly used in kitchens and bathrooms, have risen in sales by nearly 120% recently in cities. Often, trash bags and their impact on the environment go unnoticed, but the truth is, their carbon footprint is significant.
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.
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.
An alternative journey
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.
What are GreenPlast bags made of?
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.
When Kavitha’s 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.
Today, the company features hot water and cold-water-soluble bags.
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.