Envigreen - The edible 'plastic' carrier bag that isn't plastic

Following our recent story accompanied by the saddening picture of a deer holding a plastic carrier bag in its mouth, this story is far more upbeat and has a happier ending.

Indian-born inventor and entrepreneur Ashwath Hegde has spent 4 years developing a new type of carrier bag that looks remarkably similar to the plastic bags commonly found in our supermarkets today. But....there's one major difference; the EnviGreen bag doesn't contain any plastic whatsoever.

Inspired by a ban on the manufacture and sale of plastic bags in his hometown of Mangalore, he says: “The Mangalore City Corporation implemented a ban on the manufacture, sale, and distribution of plastic bags in the year 2012. But the decision was taken without preparations for alternatives.

People were concerned about how they would carry products from the market now. Everyone cannot afford a bag worth 5 rupees or 15 rupees to carry a kilogram of sugar. I decided to come up with alternatives after hearing about these problems in my hometown.”

 

This led to a painstaking 4 year period of testing and research to try and find a suitable alternative for local consumers to use instead.

His hard work paid off - The result was a bag that looks remarkably like plastic but is instead made from 100% organic, biodegradable, and eco-friendly materials, including the 'ink'.

Ashwath says “We don’t use any chemicals at all. Even the paint used for printing on the bags is natural and organic.”

The company uses 12 key ingredients to make the bags including potatoes, corn, starch, bananas, vegetable and flower oil, which first have to be converted into a liquid pulp.

Production cost

As you might expect, the one downside to the process is the cost of manufacturing the end product. The bags typically cost around 35% more than their plastic counterparts, but are still less than 5 times the cost of a fabric bag. This is great news for many local shoppers who can't afford to buy cloth bags to carry home local produce.

Ashwath adds: “To give you a rough idea, an EnviGreen bag measuring 13 inches by 16 inches costs 3 rupees, while a plastic bag with the same dimensions will cost 2 rupees”.

On the other hand, the long-term benefit to the environment is immeasurable. Unlike plastic, which can take 1,000 years to biodegrade, the EnviroGreen bag will break down completely in an astonishing 15 seconds if placed in boiling water. Even water at room temperature can break down the bag in just a single day.

Without any water to speed up the process, the bags will still biodegrade naturally in as little as 6 months. And, unlike plastic bags, if an animal eats one, it's completely harmless. To prove his point, Aswath boiled a bag in water and then drank it.

Local economic benefits

Now his invention is taking off, Ashwath has set up a factory in Bangalore to manufacture his range of biodegradable bags. The company doesn't just focus on carrier bags but also produces other items including bin liners, packaging film, aprons and oil sachets. His 60 strong team already produces an incredible 1,000 tonnes of bags every month. The factory also helps local farmers as many of the raw ingredients are grown by them.

“We had this unique idea of empowering farmers in rural Karnataka by sourcing all our raw materials from them. We are also planning to distribute seeds to help them produce the amount of materials required to make the bags. - Just the city of Bangalore consumes over 30,000 metric tonnes of plastic bags every month so we want to set up enough manufacturing facilities before we start distributing to individual customers and local kirana shop owners. We have started supplying to corporate retail chains like Metro and Reliance, which will start using the bags from December this year.” he says.

His range of products have been independently tested and approved for use by The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) and we sincerely hope that it's not too long before we begin to see this awesome, planet hugging invention hit the shops in the UK.

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