Biodegradable, compostable tableware, packaging to replace plastic as popular option

Last Updated: Sunday, 15 April 2018 (20:52 IST)
Kolkata: Today waste is considered at the core of environmental pollution and climate change. The amount of trash, that continuous use of plastic, thermocol, and other non-biodegradable materials is piling up, is voluminous and is acting as a slow poison that has been introduced into our systems, be it marine, terrestrial or even our own bodies.

As per recent reports, in India more than 15,000 tons of plastic waste is generated every day, of which 6,000 tons remain uncollected and littered.

Plastics take over 500 years to start decomposing. The first plastics were only created about 70 years back and hence it is a long time before even the first begin to decompose. If we look at the problem at a global level, we have already created over 8.3 billion tons of plastics (over 50 per cent of that in the last 13 years!). This is equal to over 1 billion elephants in terms of size! 35 per cent of the plastic used is single time use which cannot be recycled. 

While sustainable living is heavily talked about, real-life solutions are conspicuous by their absence. Despite knowing the ill effects, in the absence of options, plastic remains the popular.

Taking cue from this, around four years ago, Yash Papers decided to introduce change by manufacturing bio-degradable packaging to replace paper that was plastic-coated, laminated, or cellophane covered paper, used in packaging, especially food. As plastic is both hazardous to health and the environment, the company decided to start Chuk, with a special focus on bio-degradable packaging. 

"Plastics, Styrofoam or even melamine might be cheaper and popular choice by price but in the long run they might be a major cause of medical bills since they are carcinogenic and leach harmful chemicals when food is heated in them or hot food served.Strong measures should also be taken to ban products like Styrofoam which are carcinogenic in nature. By eating from tableware or containers made from this material, carcinogens make way into our body without realizing it," says Mr Ved Krishna, Head of Strategy at Yash Papers.

In due course, the company also decided to foray into biodegradable tableware products made out of bagasse. Currently, bowls, plates, compartment trays, and containers of 500 ml and 750 ml capacity are available in the market and there are also plans to launch soup bowls and sandwich boxes.

So, what makes Chuk products different from the ordinary disposable tableware? Mr Krishna replies, "Chuk tableware products are made from sugarcane waste called Bagasse, a renewable source, which is left over after sugarcane stalks are crushed to extract the juice."Chuk products are also 100 per cent compostable and decompose within months in backyard compostable systems, claims Krishna.

"Chuk products are not treated with any kind of chemical agents, so when they decompose after usage they do not emit harmful gases or leave behind chemicals, hence have no adverse effect on the environment. In fact, the products when manufactured are also made in a sustainable way."

"It’s like food if cows were to ingest it," Krishna says on a lighter note. The environment-friendly tableware has been priced competitively, ranging from Rs 1 to Rs 7 which is cheaper than decent quality plastic.

Chuk products are extremely convenient, as bagasse pulp makes products lightweight for ease in handling, flexible to protect from damage, and strong to prevent spillage and also makes them suitable for use in microwave ovens to heat food, he explains.

"We also have done a lot of research on the eating habits of people to come up with a more user-friendly design to cater to specific needs. That led us to being modular. We based our designs on Lego where one piece fits into another which is also fun to use for end consumers. Thus we created bowls that fit into trays and containers. We have 9 products at the moment and their designs are very specific which are unique to our brand," he adds.

Already available across the country, in cities like Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Jaipur, Dehradun, the company is working on penetrating into smaller towns and cities to spread awareness and build dealer network. 

Chuk is also available in countries like Dubai, Italy, Singapore, Australia, Sri Lanka Turkey and Netherlands. As of now, the Chuk products are sold through select dealers in India and abroad, but soon, the brand will hit the retail market by entering tie-ups with the popular brands to make our tableware more available to end user.

While the non-stop use of plastic is almost drowning us in an ocean of trash, government rules to curb its use remain inadequate. "Unfortunately, whatever rules that are in place by the government are not stringent enough for the people to take them seriously." Krishna points out.

The company in its bid to push its products is also looking to do tie-ups with Government organizations to spread awareness and help save the environment. Recently, a trial run of Chuk products was done with the Indian Railways and the company is looking forward to a concrete tie-up with the national carrier.(UNI)
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