Indian Startup Seeks Eco-Friendly Change to Packaging Industry

Workers of a helmet store paste degradable plastic substitute material on a glass in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, June 30, 2022.Deexa KhanduriSputnik correspondentDelhi recently announced a ban on single-use plastic, which includes manufacturing, importing, stocking, distribution, sale and use of identified single-use plastic items. But in practice, the ban has had a very limited impact on pollution in the absence of alternatives.Despite the nationwide ban, plastic is still used on a daily basis in India, especially at restaurants and packaging-related jobs, while manufacturers complain about the lack of cost-friendly options in the market to switch to eco-friendly choices.As people continue to look for alternatives, a Goa-based startup, LaFabrica Craft, founded by architect-turned-entrepreneur Sachin Gangadharan, has come up with eco-friendly packages that are spill-proof and durable for liquids for up to 48 hours and can hold up to 25 kg in weight.In an interview with Sputnik, Gangadharan shared that biodegradable packaging is a new idea for the Indian market, with few still believing that alternatives can become available.

"We're helping manufacturers to shift into biodegradable packing and eco-friendly products. We have a network of researchers and organizations, and we design and develop it ourselves, which includes biopolymer, mycelium, paper, cardboard and other eco-friendly products," said Gangadharan.

The young entrepreneur uses material waste like corn starch, banana peel, wheat husk, etc –products which can “easily be discarded back to nature,” as he says.Packaging is the fifth largest sector of India’s economy and is one of the highest growth sectors. According to Piai.org, the industry is estimated to be worth $50.5 billion in 2019, and is expected to reach $204.81 billion by 2025, in which primarily plastics are used.However, Gangadharan said that manufacturers do not want to switch packaging from plastic or paper to eco-friendly.

"Traditionally, the cost of packaging is hardly 5 percent of the products. But, the packaging is the largest pollutant in the system." Gangadharan estimated that if a company decides to shift to an environment-friendly manner, the cost of the packaging will at least rise up to 20 percent.

“That’s why we are not pitching our ideas to everyone, neither we are asking everyone to shift, first let those industry come on-board who are interested or feel for the environment nor people who are willing to change, and there are many,” he said.I can’t ask everyone to switch to sustainability because I’m working in the non-biodegradable industry and it’s good for the environment.”If I ask a medium or small scale enterprise to be biodegradable, without its customized research, the company would go bankrupt in two weeks. For example, a cold storage company needs a certain kind of plastic and there is no way we can suggest to them that shift as biodegradable packaging cannot secure the safety of the original material,” he explained.

Nevertheless, Gangadharan feels that all the development and research in this aspect is currently happening in silos worldwide, as the industry is very new, and a single-stop platform is needed where all this research can be shared.


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