How this family startup is tackling the plastic menace with stylish and eco-friendly bags
India generates around 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste a day, according to a report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2017. Moreover, only 14 out of 35 regional pollution boards have filed information about plastic waste generation in 2017-18.
The problem lies in the fact that plastic is a non-biodegradable material, which is only capable of breaking down into smaller fragments of microplastics. These end up accumulating in our environment and food chain, causing various health issues. The usage of plastic poses a challenge to solid waste management and also leads to other problems like groundwater pollution.
There are many forces working for a plastic-free India. One among them is EcoRight, an Ahmedabad-based startup that sells well-designed eco-friendly bags to reach customers beyond the environmentally-conscious.
“The idea behind EcoRight is to make attractive products that are also eco-friendly and appeal to a larger audience. We intend to make sure they adapt to an eco-conscious lifestyle,” says Udit Sood, Co-founder, EcoRight.
The company claims that each bag will in turn replace the use of 50-100 plastic bags. Having sold over one lakh eco-friendly bags, EcoRight has prevented the use of at least 5,000,000 plastic bags.
Growing up in an eco-friendly household, Udit felt the need to be conscious of plastic use more than anyone else. The IIM-Calcutta graduate says going eco-friendly is not a matter of choice, but a necessity.
His parents and wife are staunch followers of the anti-plastic movement and his sister is an environmental lawyer. His own research while pursuing his MBA degree focused on sustainable trade practices. Hence, whatever he did, he knew it had come from family influences.
EcoRight was founded in 2017 and the bootstrapped business kicked off with a few eco-friendly tote bags.
He spearheaded the idea but credits EcoRight’s success to his father and Co-founder, Sanjiv Sood. An IIT graduate, his father has been in the manufacturing business for the last two decades and this was a natural extension. He guided Udit with scaling and working with different partners for EcoRight.
Launched first in India and the US through Amazon, EcoRight later expanded to other countries in Europe, and Australia, and Canada, and now employs around 50 people. Speaking of the startup's far-reaching approach, Udit tells SocialStory, “It is not a problem confined to any single country, it is a worldwide epidemic.”
In its first year of operations, in 2017-18, EcoRight clocked a revenue of Rs 75 lakh and in 2018-19, the revenue touched Rs 2.25 crore.
On a plastic-free mission
Half of EcoRight’s sales come from India, and the remaining from the US, the UK and Europe. With a global reach, the company delivers to most countries through ecommerce retailers. On the platform, sellers are typically required to package their products in transparent material, usually plastic.
Nearly 50 percent of plastic waste generated globally in 2015 was in packaging, according to a UNEP report.
Udit says, “As an eco-friendly startup, it just didn’t make sense for us to use plastic while sending an eco-friendly bag. That’s when we did some research and decided to switch to bio-degradable alternatives made from corn, beet, and potato starch.”
EcoRight experimented with different variants of cotton and jute until it found a fabric that was both soft and durable.
“Jute is sturdy but it always doesn’t look great, while cotton is soft and looks nice but is not as sturdy as jute. So, we blended the two and created a fabric called 'juton',” Udit explains.
Recently, the startup also launched bags made of recycled cotton using old T-shirts and bags.
Additionally, EcoRight is also planning to produce bags from recycled plastic and hopes to launch it in the next three to four months. The fabric will be made only out of recycled plastic and polyester sourced from Global Recycling Standard (GRS) certified organisations. The certification will ensure the fabric is 100 percent recycled. EcoRight is working to get a GRS certificate as well.
Apart from its focus on the material, EcoRight also places emphasis on the design aspect. Apart from in-house designers, the startup also employs around 20 freelance designers from different countries. This team works on putting in an eco-friendly pun or a message on the bags to make them fun and quirky.
Adding zing to eco-friendly bags
One of the company’s biggest moments came when it recently entered into a licensing agreement with Disney.
Udit says that they are one of the first eco-friendly companies the entertainment giant has tied up with.
“This gives us a chance to make eco-friendly bags mainstream. People should want to carry the bag and not have to carry them because it is eco-friendly. It gives us an opportunity to use some of the best-selling characters and designs in the world like the Avengers and Mickey Mouse.”
EcoRight hopes to launch 10 more product lines by the end of this year, as part of its licensing agreement with Disney.
It will be interesting what else this eco-friendly startup pulls out of its bag soon.
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