Mon, 18 Feb, 2019

On the eco-route: Bagasse bag has got the swag

Story: JAY | JOSHI | 28th April 2018, 06:09 Hrs

People and governments across the world and across India, including Goa, are now striving to make the environment plastic-free. But while all things plastic are eradicated, it is also important to find a good, perhaps better substitute that is as cheap and durable as plastic. Players from the private sector are of course rising to the challenge, and Goa too is witnessing the rise of a homegrown company – Earthytude, a venture by Gitanjali and Marlon Lobo- which is working to replace plastic with eco-friendly products across the state.   

“Both of us worked in the hospitality industry and saw closely how plastic, especially straws and carry bags, is a major pollutant,” says Gitanjali, explaining how the idea came about. “These plastic straws and bags are everywhere, and banning plastic is not enough. We have to also provide an alternative. This we are doing with our eco-friendly paper straws, and carry bags made from sugarcane bagasse.” What’s more, these carry bags are waterproof, and can carry twice the volume of goods than that of a plastic bag of same size.  

Before starting Eartytude, the Lobos spent about one and half year on research and only then came up with their eco-friendly products. “Our paper straws have been tested for safety in certified labs of the Government of India, and can be put into any liquid without risk,” informs Gitanjali.“The carry bags are created from a special polymer made from sugarcane bagasse, which is lighter and stronger than plastic. The material completely disintegrates in 240 days, and being a starch compound, it enriches the soil.”  

Secondly, the company also has a unique strategy to get its bagasse carry bags to spread throughout Goa. “We are going through the municipalities, convincing them to ban plastic and replace it with the eco-friendly bags,” says Gitanjali.“We have received tremendous support from the Mapusa municipality which has already banned plastic and is replacing it with our bags. These are lighter and stronger than their plastic counterparts. If you need a 50 micron plastic bag to carry about 8-10 kg weight, an eco-grade bag of only 35 microns can hold the same weight,” she adds. Eartytude is currently trying to expand into Calangute and Candolim, and has also received support from the mayor of Panaji.  

Following a top-down approach, Earthytude is approaching the municipalities and focusing on selling the bags to businesses rather than individual customers. “We are selling the bags to wholesalers who can then break it down into smaller sections. We need to get these bags to vegetable or fish vendors who can then pass these on to the customers. Going through the wholesalers makes it easier for the vendors to get access to these bags,” says Gitanjali.  

The firm has no doubt made considerable achievements in the one-and-half year since its inception, but its journey hasn’t been entirely free of hurdles. “We are a generation used to disposable things, and kicking that habit is a bit difficult,” says Gitanjali. “Educating people is a tough task and it needs a lot of manpower.” Earthytude also has a footprint in Karnataka and Telangana, where the governments have been more supportive, she notes. “In these states, there is more awareness and the initiative is being taken by the government. So it is easier for us to get sentions and permissions. But in Goa we have to work to convince the authorities,” she says, adding that while the government has been slow to come on board, the private sector has embraced the eco-friendly products. “We have received support from many departmental stores, and companies who are even printing their own logo on the product and spreading it,” the entrepreneur informs.  

The bags cost depends on the size and weight, but is pegged around Rs 300 per kg. They are sold only through wholesalers at this point and are available in and around Mapusa. The makers use non-toxic biodegradable colours and also offer customised bags on demand.  

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