These innovations can completely replace single-use plastics for a sustainable future

By Anju Ann Mathew
July 12, 2020, Updated on : Thu May 20 2021 11:30:44 GMT+0000
These innovations can completely replace single-use plastics for a sustainable future
Single-use plastic packaging from covers to bottles have deteriorating effects on the environment and the species in it. These groundbreaking concepts give a ray of hope for sustainability.
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What was once a revolutionary invention is now coming back to haunt our future. Single-use plastic covers and bottles skyrocketed in its popularity in the 60s and 70s and have been the go-to solution for packaging since.

Now, the increasing amount of non-recyclable plastics has created a huge amount of landfill across the world. This kind of waste has been polluting the earth’s natural resources to the extent where the aquatic ecosystems are facing its adverse impact, apart from the other palpable ill effects of the chemicals in it.

While some countries have adapted to newer lifestyles by completely eliminating the use of single-use plastics, some are still on the way. People are still finding it hard to give up their old shopping habits. However, there have been many innovative ideas that can play the role of an ideal replacement to low-grade plastic packaging and items.

Social Story lists a few of them that can replace this earth-deteriorating material.

Menstrual cups

Studies have shown that a menstruating woman can generate up to 125 kilograms of plastic through the use of disposable pads. While the availability of pads is still a question for many women in India, menstrual waste is still a problem considering the sections that have access to it.

Menstrual cup

Image by Vanessa Ramirez

Despite silicone being very remotely associated to plastics, it goes a long way in reducing the usage of sanitary pads, which use non-biodegradable plastics for their base. Menstrual cups use this gel-slash-plastic reusable material, which collects more amount of blood than the average sized sanitary napkin or a tampon.

They are more eco-friendly and hygienic when compared to its alternatives. However, the accessibility and the awareness of this product also remains a question mark in some sections of the country.

Organic packaging

While plastic seems convenient with its flexibility, low cost, durability and insulative nature, the extensive use of the material in packaging has led to massive increase in the amount of plastic that is non-recyclable.

Mushroom Packaging

Mycelial packaging (Image: Sustainablity Guide)

Many organisations have adopted organic packaging to solve this problem. While brown paper is creating a trend in the vegetable markets, sunflower hulls, bagasse, olive pits, fish waste, algae, plant sugars and even mushroom is being used in countries across the world.

In fact, the fine mycelial network microstructure of mushrooms also aim to overtake ‘vegan’ leathers that are created with unsustainable plastics.

In Japan, where Nestle’s KitKats are a favourite, wrappers have been replaced with organic paper while the art of origami is also encouraged on the same wrapper.

Edible cutlery

It has been a while since edible cutlery created a storm amongst netizens. Spoons, cups, and other single-use plastic cutlery can be replaced with these recyclables that can also be consumed if needed.

An Indian, Narayana Peesapati, who became aware of the ill effects of plastics, introduced this concept to the world. The founder and director of Bakey’s Food Private Limited made edible spoons with a mix of jowar (sorghum), rice and wheat flour, that do not get soggy when placed in food or water.

Biscuit cup

Image: The Better India

In Madurai, the RS Pathy Nilgiri Tea kiosk, located on West Masi Street, serves coffee and tea in edible cups, which can hold a hot cup of coffee for at least a good 10 minutes. The owner, Vivek Sabapathy, claims that at least 500 such biscuit-like cups are sold every day.

Steel and bamboo straws

When thinking about the second most commonly used plastic, one can easily point at use-and-throw straws. These straws have found their replacement in two popular alternatives – steel and bamboo.

Steel and Bamboo straws

Image by David Lalang

If while visiting a restaurant, one can carry their own steel straws, there’s nothing like it. However, the hygiene can be questionable when directly served at restaurants. The paper replacement to straws is relatively unsuccessful due to the accumulation of moisture in a short span of time.

On the other hand, bamboo straws have an extra vote for its sustainability and relative durability. They can last a long time, even for years, if maintained properly.

While this seems like the way to go, vendors in the economically weaker sections of the country resort to single-use plastic covers and straws due to their low cost. In order to attain sustainability and eliminate plastic completely, the system still has a long way to go, especially in India.

However, we can always kickstart a positive change and hope to inspire one another, as Paulo Coelho rightly said, “The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.”

Edited by Javed Gaihlot