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Waste into Value: Overcoming challenges in mainstreaming “sustainable products”

India generates 6,137 tonnes of uncollected and littered plastic waste each day. Further 40% of that plastic waste is not recycled becoming a source of continued pollution as plastic is not bio-degradable. In order to tackle the issue, stakeholders are re-imagining products that are considered “famous” for their plastic, like disposable dinnerware. The implementation of a product made entirely from waste serves as a “thought experiment” to imagine alternatives to the current plastic paradigm. 

One such company in this realm is Prakritii - Cultivating Green.  Prakritii’s largest uptake comes from Domestic, Malyasian & Australian markets. Amardeep Bardhan, Partner in Prakritii explains “we have seen that the international market for sustainable products is already matured.” The company produces bio-degradable disposable dining ware that substitutes plastic as an input raw material.  Prakritii’s model uses the waste material of areca palm tree as raw material for the creation of disposal dishware made from the  Areca Leaf. The whole production of Areca Leaf into disposable dishware is 100% chemical free and only uses heating to form the product. In India, there is still a need to increase consumer awareness such that sustainability products can get traction in the market. 

While creating consumer awareness is one challenge for sustainable products, another challenge is setting up a supply chain from scratch. In this case, the Areca Leaf is new to the market. Raw material from villages is procured using out-dated processes and hence its input costs are still relatively high. In addition, there is need to scale up production levels in a profitable way. Areca Leaf production for centuries has been tailored towards a small market so its production process was designed for a small consumer base. Further, Prakritii only receives abundant raw material from January to April and creates stockpiles to meet demand in the remainder of the year. 

To overcome these challenges, as Amardeep Bardhan explains, “Prakritii is currently working to develop a cluster based program to increase Areca Leaf production in India.” The company’s plan is to use hand leaf collecting machines and train  farmers by implementing a  buy-back program. In turn, the farmers will provide Prakritii exclusive rights to purchase the raw material. The cluster base program is intended to provide adequate supply as demand for their products grow in international markets and India. With increased production of Areca Leaf, the price will eventually decrease to become competitive with plastic. Until then, the Areca Leaf dinnerware will find its niche as a luxury product. 

There are many ways to target the sustainability of a supply chain but the largest impact comes from designing products holistically in order to reduce their resource consumption down the supply chain. Whether these products are successful will be heavily dependent on the growing “consumer consciousness” in India; the ability of products to serve a larger population; and the price competitiveness to current product alternatives.  Prakritii delivers the message of "Consume Green, Consume in Green"


Prakritii - Cultivating Green is Parivaratan Awards nominee for 2014

Image Credits: Prakritii - Cultivating Green

Author: Sustainability Outlook