One of India’s largest paper manufacturers, Adeera Packaging, manufactures paper bags fully from recycled paper and agri wastes and it can resolve the problem of pollution during winter in the National Capital Region of Delhi.
“Agri waste is available in plenty everywhere in the world. In Delhi, there is a lot of problem during winter due to pollution. This is because in Punjab they burn all agricultural wastes that can be converted into paper,” said Sushant Gaur, founder and CEO, Adeera Packaging.
Converting agri wastes into paper will help the environment in two ways. “First, there will not be so much burning of crop waste (stubbles). Two, by replacing plastic bags or any other form of packaging the environment gets a hand to help,” he said.
All agri wastes can be used. “We are an environmentally conscious company. We have got an ESG (environmental, social and governance) audit. We are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council of the US) compliant. We’ve got all the certifications required to become vendors for any company in the whole world,” Gaur told businessline.
Gaur, who spent a couple of months in the US this year to understand the market, expressed surprise that the awareness about agri wastes used for producing paper is low. “Large world bodies such as FSC don’t even take this as a paper which is available in large quantities in India, meaning they don’t issue certification,” he said.
Surprisingly, New Jersey has banned paper bags without knowing they can be manufactured from agri waste.
Agri wastes can be derived from vegetables and fruits such as potatoes and bananas. The advantage paper bags have over compostable plastic ones is that the latter takes six months to decompose, whereas the former takes a month or two. During winter, compostable plastic takes additional time to deteriorate.
If paper is agri-based it can be recycled easily and if it is burnt, it would only become agri waste. “Very few countries outside India have the technology to convert agri wastes into paper. So, we have now taken this to the US, showing it to companies. Ultimately, it is part of circular economy,” he said.
“We are now selling our paper bags to multinational brands such as KFC, Taco Bell, Barnes & Nobles and other such firms. Sixty per cent of our sales are exported and the rest is inside India. We are now setting up a sales office and a warehouse in the US,” Gaur said. Besides, it will set up a factory in Gujarat and a sales office in Mumbai.
Manufacturing unit in US
By 2024, Adeera will set up a manufacturing unit in the US. It was planned to be set up this year but had to be put off as its plans with its partner did not work out.
One of the reasons why the company wants to set up its unit in the US is because facilities that make up 50 per cent of India’s total paper industry capacity are coming up. “After a couple of years, waste cuttings (paper) are not going to come to India. Prices are likely to go up, whereas in the US they are likely to decline due to the availability of recycled paper,” Gaur said.
The recycled paper supports efforts to tackle climate change. While paper is a meagre $5 billion industry, there are at least 6 trillion plastic bags in the world. “It is not possible to replace the entire plastics even if it grows at 30 per cent CAGR over the next six years,” he said, adding his company was replacing “30 plastic bags every second”, though.
The best way to reduce plastic bags would be to use agri wastes, which mills can convert to paper and then into bags, Gaur said.
Selling in kgs
Adeera Packaging, which was started off as Urja Packaging before being rebranded after Atulya Bhatia of Cartonwala came on board as a director in 2020 apart from Ashish Agarwal, began selling paper bags in kilos and popularised colloquial terms such as “safa” in North India.
The company now supplies paper bags to brands such as Big Basket, Apollo Pharmacy, KFC, Bata, Nike, Taco Bell, Barnes & Nobles and Bikanerwala.
Adeera, whose annual revenue has increased to ₹60 crore currently from ₹3.5 crore in 2019, has five units functioning in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, producing 52 million paper bags a month, apart from a warehouse in Delhi.
The company, which makes consumers aware of paper bags made from agri waste, uses sustainable paper and its “chain of custody” is monitored by FSC, which has given certification to it.