Bengaluru Trio Turns Agro-Waste Into Biodegradable Plates, Bowls & Trays; Helps Farmers Earn Extra

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Ask any Delhite about winter in the city, the person would surely voice serious concerns about air pollution being at its worst during the cold months. In addition to the regular emission from vehicles and surrounding industries, the capital city hosts another unwelcome airborne menace. The air is greyed with the smoke emanating from stubble burning in the neighbouring states Punjab and Haryana. Despite imposing various restrictions on stubble burning, the problem still continues as farmers fail to find any other feasible solution to get rid of the agricultural waste.

No one has ever become poor by giving – Anne Frank

However, a startup in Bengaluru seems to have found the most functional solution to this problem. Bio-Lutions manufacture sustainable, eco-friendly and all-purpose tableware and food packaging from the huge mounds of agro-waste generated annually. Though based in Karnataka at present, the company aims to establish their market in North India as well to eliminate the perilous practice of large-scale stubble burning there.

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Bio-Lutions is a German firm who produce affordable, eco-friendly alternatives of daily-use items. They have partnered with Kurian Mathew, Kurian George and George Thomas in India to launch their Indian initiative of turning stubble into tableware.

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Talking to Efforts For Good, Kurien Mathew shares how the unique innovation came along. “I met with Bio-Lutions founder Eduardo at a project in China. It caught our attention there that how much plastic packaging goes into waste every single day. Both of our concerns were similar, so our objectives matched – we wanted to produce an eco-friendly packaging alternative which would be as sturdy, resilient and convenient as the plastic ones,” he recalls.

Both Eduardo and Mathew were architects-turned-product designers, and they zeroed in on agricultural waste as their raw material for the eco-friendly packaging. When a German research institute successfully created a prototype of the product, Eduardo proposed Mathew to launch a production unit of the same in India – the country which generates one of the highest amounts of agricultural as well as non-biodegradable plastic waste. They just had to join the two aspects together.

Win-win for both the farmers & the startup

“With our personal savings, we opened a small pilot production unit in Bengaluru back in 2016. Production was really limited then, so was the popularity of our product. We continued testing various crop wastes as our raw material – paddy and wheat straws, banana stems, sugarcane leaves and fibres, tomato plants etc. Now, a majority of our wares are made from banana stems, pineapple and tomato leaves, sugarcane fibres and water hyacinth,” shares Mathew.

Last year, the firm upscaled to a bigger production unit in Ramnagara, Karnataka. Presently, they source all their materials from the local farmers in Mandya, with the help of the rural NGO Vikasana.

Mathew reveals, “It is a win-win situation for both the farmers and us. They are quite happy to earn some extra by selling their agricultural residue, which otherwise they would have burnt or left here and there. At the same time, we are getting our raw materials in bulk.”

Why opt for ‘stubble-ware’?

So how exactly is Bio-Lutions tableware better than other paper or wood products marketed as eco-friendly alternatives to plastic? Mathew has the perfect answer, “To be honest, paper or wood products are not exactly sustainable, as they are coming after cutting down the trees. Whereas, we are using something which is already discarded. These stubble-based tablewares decomposes faster than other biodegradable variants. Additionally, our products are free of chemicals.”

Bio-Lutions ensure cross-country supply of the finished products. They have established a widespread commercial network by teaming up with retail chains and supermarkets. Initially, the consumers were not so convinced due to the natural brownish appearance of the products, as compared to their immaculate white plates and cutlery. However, with time, the conscious consumers have become pretty thrilled to get their food packaged in boxes or trays that won’t end up in landfills.

Bio-Lutions have also started designing kidney trays for hospitals as a substitute for the stainless steel ones, which require repeated sterilisation. Thus opting for single-use, stubble-borne kidney trays reduces the biomedical expenses of any hospital or clinic.

Efforts For Good take

While India continues to struggle with its enormous burden of agricultural waste, Bio-Lutions has probably figured out the most compatible and relevant solution. It is only a matter of time before they expand to other parts of India and implement their know-how to upcycle farming waste. Efforts For Good urges all consumers to refrain from using single-use plastic containers, packages and cutlery and opt for their sustainable counterparts instead.

 

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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

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Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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It's not how much we give
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