Started with the initiative to reduce plastic use and make our surroundings cleaner and greener, Mumbai-based Pappco Greenware produces eco-friendly food packaging products.
Recently, European Union declared a war against plastic, as an urgent plan to clean up Europe’s act and ensure that every piece of packaging on the continent is reusable or recyclable by 2030.
The immense harm that plastic is causing to the environment is real and menacing, but what are the alternatives? What is the solution to single-use plastics? Are we ready to make the switch to eco-friendly products? If yes, how and on what scale?
These are questions on the minds of most ecologically-conscious individuals such as the founders of Pappco Greenware — Anil Agarwal, Aadesh Agarwal, and Abhishek Agarwal — who decided to find alternatives to both single-use plastic and paper products.
Abhishek Agarwal (25), says, “It was in Singapore that we came across bagasse products in a retail store. We found the concept most interesting as it claimed to be a compostable alternative to plastics.”
Thereafter, Anil Agarwal spent six months visiting more than 50 factories around the world to understand the product and the process better. Once the three-member team was convinced that this could potentially solve a problem, they ventured into setting it up as a business.
Like any other business, the challenges were plenty. The toughest task the founders of Pappco faced was to educate customers on the importance of the product they were putting out in the market.
“It was a simple case of ‘first guy through the wall always gets bloody’ since the market had so far not been exposed to the idea of biodegradable sugarcane disposables,” says Anil Agarwal.
Another major hurdle was the similarity between Pappco’s products and those made out of Styrofoam, since both were white in colour. The team spent months meeting every buyer, retail store owner and prospective clients multiple times to make a convincing case before they could generate any sales.
“We were fortunate that we had the infrastructure and the capacity to hold on to our venture, in spite of the losses while bootstrapping, and eventually we managed to enter the market,” says Abhishek.
Pappco Greenware offers a range of more than 150 products spread across seven different product lines. Its ‘service ware’ range includes plates, glasses bowls that are made from natural fibers such as sugarcane, wheat straw, and bamboo.
Sugarcane and bamboo are plants which mature in just about two years, reducing the massive dependence on trees and also doing away with the need to use oil incorporated in plastic products.
Further, the raw materials used make the products very easy to decompose in backyard garden composting or industrial compost sites. These plant fibre products can handle hot foods and beverages as they don’t bend or break. Pappco products are also microwavable till 100° C.
Pappco also produces paper straws which are made from sustainably- sourced European paper that is FDA approved. “Most paper straws are made from recycled paper and are not food grade so we really emphasise on quality and safety as a company,” says Aadesh.
Pappco also produces bioplastics, which are plastics made from plants, algae, or microorganisms. The two most common bioplastics for foodservice ware — PLA and PHA — are made from corn. PLA and bagasse products have an estimated shelf life of two years, when stored in a cool, dry place.
Talking about the response to Pappco products, Abhishek says, “It has been absolutely amazing. We have had all kinds of clients and interactions. Some people don't buy it because they find it higher priced, some people don't buy it because they don’t find a design that works but there is nobody who does not like what we do or what we sell."
"The preference for each person, even the one we haven't sold to, has been to buy and I believe it is only a matter of time till we get more of the market. We are a very new company and product category.”
Pappco currently has more than 200 food and beverage (F&B) clients who we are aggressively working towards reducing the usage of plastic. These include brands such as Curefit, Socials, The Bombay Canteen, Cafe Zoe, LBF hospitality, Bascilico, Marriott Hotels, Taj Hotels, Sprout Gourmet, Reliance Retail, Future Group Retail to name a few.
The startup recently took part in the NH7 music festival where the bars went plastic straw free for the event. It also handled supplies for more than 25 food stalls, ensuring each stall used 100 percent compostable packaging during the festival.
Pappco is currently running a massive campaign against plastics – ‘One Less Piece of Plastic’. “Here we are sharing stories about the impact we have had and also about other people around the world who are carrying out similar efforts,” says Abhishek.
The company has a target of getting 500 outlets in India to go plastic straw free and it has 80 outlets on board as on date.
Besides, it has gone global this year having recently sent out a consignment to East Africa, and operations are underway for opening sales offices in Dubai and Sri Lanka in the next two months. Pappco is also in talks with a few nonprofit foundations in India with whom they hope to work to have a larger impact.