A couple in Bengaluru, through their
- A Bengaluru couple makes eco-friendly bin bags from newspaper and maida
- The couple sells 10,000-20,000 green trash bags monthly
- Over 100 underprivileged women are trained in making the paper bags
There is talk about plastic pollution and reducing the use of plastic in daily life, be it straws, plastic cutlery, bags and so on. A couple in Bengaluru has come out with an alternative solution for plastic trash bags. These bags are made from degradable materials like old newspapers, instead of the non-biodegradable plastic, maida (refined flour) in place of fevicol and jute threads instead of the cloth or plastic ones.
It all began three years ago in an apartment in Bengaluruwhen 44-year-old Arun Balachandran and his wife Jyoti Pahadsingh decided to ditch plastic bin bag. The idea was to find an alternative to plastic and also ensure the solution imbibes the principles of reuse and repurpose water material, like discarded papers.
We wanted to minimise our plastic consumption and making a shift from plastic to bio-degradable bags was a crucial step. When the paper bag didn’t work out, we started looking for alternatives and to my surprise I was unable to find anything concrete and readily available. And that is when the idea of developing our own alternatives triggered in, says the co-founder of GreenBUG or Green Bangalore Urban Garbage.
From paper bags tearing due to wet garbage being dumped on in it, to developing wrong sized bags, the duo underwent several trial and error before finally achieving the breakthrough.
The final product has multiple layers of newspapers to ensure that the paper doesn’t tear easily or get soggy due to liquid waste being dumped into it. In addition, maida is applied on the base and on the sides so that when a user lifts the bag it doesn’t tear.
As for the size of the bag, these are available for standard size bins. It’s about 13″ tall, has an opening of over 90 cm. It expands to a volume of about 10 litres and can hold over 2 kilo of dry load. It is adequate for the average family’s daily requirement. One bag can be used maximum for two days. In case it is being to dump predominantly dry waste, then the bag can be reused for longer duration
Arun made 6-7 paper bags in 2015 which lasted for almost a week. then It was their domestic help who demanded more such bags. That was the turning point for them recalls Arun,
Since making those bags was time consuming, we did not make these in large quantities. But our domestic help, friends and family members encouraged us to come up with the alternatives and reach out to more people with our initiative.
The couple decided to formalise their product after Jyoti’s participation at a women entrepreneurship programme in IIM-Bengaluru, which led to GreenBUG’s incubation at the prestigious institution in 2016. With an introduction of an online website and Facebook page, the product was now ready to move beyond their social circles, says Arun.
One Innovation, Two Goals
We had two clear goals – provide a better planet for future generations by cutting down on plastic usage and empower the underprivileged women by giving them job opportunity.
With the help of an NGO, the couple started getting women from low-income groups on board. In last three years, over 100 women have been trained in making the garbage bags out of newspapers. To make the work more flexible, the women work from home and are paid on per piece basis.
At any given time, 15-20 women work on making the bags. From making 3-4 bags in an hour to now making 6-7 in the same time frame, it’s been a tremendous journey of the project with these women, adds Arun. The women earn anything between Rs. 5,000-6,000 every month. The couple hopes to soon involve people with disabilities into the organisation.
The feedback given by users on bags is what keeps the organisation going,
The consumer feedback has tremendously helped us in improving the product. In our initial days, we received a lot of criticisms and suggestions from our friends and family, which has now significantly reduced, chuckles Arun.
It was only through the word of mouth that the initiative picked up in Bengaluru and then spread its wings to other cities and the customer base expanded. The bags are available on one of the leading shopping portals in the country, in organic stores of the city and on the organisation’s website.
The organisation which now gets orders from other cities like Agra, Trivandrum, Bhopal, Ooty, Madurai, Jammu and Ambernath, sells anything between 10,000-20,000 paper garbage bags every month.
Winning The Price Battle: Eco-Friendly Garbage Bags V/S Plastic Bin Bags
One step at a time – is how Arun and Jyoti went about creating awareness among people. Considering that the price of their product (Rs. 5) is three times higher than the usual garbage bags (one plastic garbage bag is priced between ₹1-2) it was challenging for them to convince people to make the switch
Subconsciously everyone is so habituated and addicted to plastic bags that they see no reason in making a change, especially if the price is higher to what they are using, says Arun.
While some people are just rigid about their choice, some are willing to try alternatives says Arun,
We believe that most people are environmentally conscious, but struggle to be earth-friendly due to a lack of practical and affordable alternatives. If we need to make a switch to degradable items, then a collective approach should be undertaken. Spreading awareness and simultaneously developing green options is the need of the hour. GreenBUG’s aim is to make things easier for people to switch over from plastic garbage bags.
With the world turning its attention on plastic waste and India banning plastics in several of its states, Maharashtra being the latest one, Arun believes this is the best time for their product to grow and reach as many people as possible.