Plastic bags, despite being banned in certain states, continue to dominate the sales-purchase arena. That they are a hurdle to the environmental, taking an aeon to decompose, goes without saying.

In 2002, the Centre had banned their production to below 20 micrometres in thickness to prevent them from clogging the municipal drainage systems. This was followed by Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Goa halting production, though the thickness of the bag allowed varied from state to state.

This year Karnataka suspended use of all forms of plastic bags and other plastic items. But four years ago, in 2012, Mangalore City Corporation had banned the sale and manufacture of plastic carry bags. It was then that Mangalore based entrepreneur Ashwath Hegdehad thought of an alternative. Along with 11 others, includingglobal scientists and environmentalists, he worked on an innovative project.

Four years of research and development gave birth to Envigreen Biotech India Private Ltd in 2016 in Bengaluru. The company produces100 per cent environment friendly and biodegradable bags with Hedge as CEO. “The EnviGreen (EG) bags are 100 per cent organic, edible and recyclable which will eliminate plastic from our country,” says Hegde.

EG carry bags look like plastic carry bags, but the company claims that they don’t use even one per cent of plastic. The product is poised to hit the Indian market in January 2017.

“We are using a patented technology using natural starch, vegetable oil derivatives and vegetable waste,” says a company officialemphasising that the products are non-toxic to the environment, both animals and plants. “Conventional plastic bags are toxic and harmful. EG bags can biodegrade 100 per cent in less than 80 days.”

EG bags can burn and dissolve in water. The technology provides EG products an electric dissipative feature (suitable for electronic wrapping) along with anti-static feature-dust repellent, oxygen barrier-corrosion prevention, oil/grease resistance. It dissolves in hot water (80 degree Celsius) and softens in water at room temperature. It can carry the same weight as any other conventional bags, with the largest being able to lug 8-10 kilograms.

For raw materials, the company is procuring vegetable wastes from farmers’ associations while importing vegetable oil. “We are buying vegetable waste directly from the farmers of Karnataka, which is highly profitable and a great source of alternate income for the farmers,” says Hedge.

Apart from carry bags, the company is also manufacturing trash bags, oil and grease sachets, bin liners, packaging films, aprons wrapping covers, laundry bag, hotel guest kits. Only one drawback -- they cannot carry liquids and semi-liquids.

The EG products have been tested by government approved labs in India and internationally. Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, Central Institute of Plastics Engineering and Technology, Sriram Institute for Industrial Research have given them the green signal.

“We will be setting up 1000 metric ton manufacturing units in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi”, says Hedge. “We will ‘Make in India’, export it to the Middle East and European markets. India will certainly become cost-centric and the cheapest source of organic material.”