Plastic is among the few things that is easier to create than destroy. The polymers take at least 500 years to decompose, which is, for all intents and purposes, forever. Despite restrictions on their use, plastic carry bags continue to dominate the shopping landscape, due to the lack of cost-effective alternatives, posing serious environmental hazards.
But all that could change if 24-year-old NRI entrepreneur Ashwath Hegde’s ambitious plans to mass-market his ‘EnviGreen’ carry bags succeed. Made from vegetable waste and vegetable oil derivatives, the bags have been certified as plastic free by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board and the global certification and testing firm TÜV SÜD South Asia.
Hegde’s journey began in 2012 when the city corporation of his home town Mangalore (now Mangaluru), Karnataka, banned plastic bags. In search of substitutes, Hegde personally funded a team of 10 researchers in Europe to develop biodegradable carry bags. Meanwhile, he shifted base to Qatar where he set up Green Corporation.
Four years of research bore fruit in 2016, when the company launched its first biodegradable shopping bags in Qatar on February 26—the country’s National Environment Day. “These bags decompose naturally in 60-180 days,” Hegde explains.CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE FULL 30 UNDER 30 LIST
The two-day campaign to popularise the product in West Asia caught the attention of India’s then minister of state for environment and forests, Prakash Javadekar, who encouraged Hegde to set up a plant in India under the central government’s Make in India initiative.
The invitation led to EnviGreen Biotech India Pvt Ltd in Bengaluru last year. “India’s first plastic-free biodegradable bags are set to roll out from our Bengaluru factory in February 2017 under the brand name EnviGreen,” says Hegde, CEO of the company, that has inked deals to supply its eco-friendly bags to convenience store chain Reliance Fresh, etailer Naaptol and online grocery store Bigbasket, among others.
Rudra Narasimha Rao, director, industrial energy efficiency, at The Energy and Resources Institute, a think tank dedicated to sustainable development that has tested the EnviGreen bags, calls them “one of the solutions to plastic waste”. “If we create awareness on plastic pollution, products like these will find acceptance.”
And with civic bodies planning their own surgical strikes on plastic waste, you may soon be taking your next grocery home in an EnviGreen bag.