The world is finally waking up to the hazards of using plastic and styrofoam disposable cutlery. France recently banned the use of these environmentally hazardous and non-degradable materials to manufacture disposable wares. So did China.
A new French law will require all disposable tableware to be manufactured from 50% biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January of 2020. China has completely banned thermocol, plastics and white pollutants.
There are two very specific reasons why these materials are getting banned in environmentally conscious and responsible countries of the world.
One, plastics, styrofoam and thermocol are either not degradable or take too much effort to recycle. So much so that most municipalities do not care to recycle them and therefore, these materials get sent to landfills. They create waste that will live on for hundreds of decades after the current and next generation of humanity will be gone.
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Second, most materials used to make disposable cutlery today, namely plastics and other derivatives such as melamine, polystyrene etc. find their way into food items that we eat in them. The moment hot food is served in plastic plates and cups, the plastic reacts and gets into the food item and into our bodies. It has now been proven by numerous scientific studies that these materials are toxic to living beings and cause diseases of the liver, kidney and other body parts.
Alternative disposable tableware
Enter alternative technologies and materials that can be used to produce disposable ware. Materials such as fallen areca palm leaves, sugarcane waste (from sugar manufacturing industry), bamboo and wheat straw are increasingly being used by startups to make bio degradable and environmentally safe products that pose zero health hazards and can be composted easily in our home composter. Two such startups are EcoGreeny and Pappco.
Ecogreeny & Co
Ecogreeny & Co was established in Coimbotre, Tamil Nadu in 2016. “We see Ecogreeny as ‘Way of Life’. It is not a business model rather it is an Environmental Model” says Ram one of the co-founders of the company. “Formation of Ecogreeny & Co has started to transform local societies by, on one hand, creating jobs and on the other hand, reusing the natural resources available abundantly to human beings. We call this responsible living.”
Areca Palm Leaves to make disposable and compostable cutlery
Ecogreeny & Co uses fallen areca palm leaves to produce designer cutlery and tableware. Once fallen from the areca palm trees, the leaf sheaths are cleaned under hygienic conditions and transformed into cutlery and crockery using a natural and chemical free manufacturing process. Wastes from the manufacturing process are bio degradable in nature just as the products that Ecogreeny produces. “The waste goes right back into nature for compost making which in turn increases crop yields”, says Ram. The following schematic explains how Ecogreeny & Co manufacturers its disposable plates.
“At Ecogreeny we feel life! Our main mission is to add value to society by planting trees & encouraging humanity to adopt eco-friendly products. We are absolutely against deforestation, as it disturbs the balance of life and nature.” he added.
To drive his point home, Ram further states, “Climate change is a real and serious threat to life on earth. We can reverse the effects of climate change if individuals, governments & companies take up social responsibility. We dedicate Ecogreeny to this cause for a better tomorrow for our children and generations to come after them. Empowering the poor & needy is part of our work culture. We pay proper wages that help sustain lives and most of our employees are women for whom we even provide housing facilities when needed.”
Similarly, Pappco started in 2011 to provide a viable alternative to plastic cutlery/containers in India, Pappco uses sugarcane, bamboo and wheat straw to manufacture its disposables. “Our core value is that we produce disposable items that come from plants, not plastic,” says Abhishek. “Also, the parts of sugarcane and bamboo that we use are byproducts; these crops renew within a year.”