Making Plastic Alternatives Sustainable

Gokul N K
Gokul N K
Sep 29 · 7 min read

The story

My wife generally doesn’t loose her temper. But when she does she is a firebrand. There is one thing that triggers this side of her consistently. That trigger is when my wife sees somebody throwing plastic waste on roads. I have seen her blasting people on the go and sometimes stopping their vehicle to blast them.

I was pretty much used to these episodes but one day I blurted out “If you really care so much you should provide them alternatives. If not you are just doing all these just to make yourself feel good about it.” She gave me a snide look and went about her work.

But after a couple of days she asked me what I meant and what she could do about it.

The seed

I told her “If you are not betting your money or time to solve a problem you are just a better cribber and nothing more. Look for reasons why people are using plastics. What can you do to provide them with alternatives. See if you can devise some strategy so that they don’t throw stuff. Start a business. Spend your time knowing the problem and the reasons for their behaviour. Try to solve those challenges one by one at your own pace”.

The Beginnings

Before long she had discussed it with her school friends and she started a trial. A facebook page for THE BAGS was created and they started with a couple of sustainable alternatives for plastics. They showcased their products in a stall and they were happy with the response they got. In just couple of months they visited more than 5 stalls and did their user research.

Photos from Different Stalls

Happy with the response they have got they are now taking the serious steps and they are registering their business. Wish them all the luck.

The Goal

I had read the following quote in one of the books I was reading. It had an impact on me and when I discussed with my wife she also felt that it great and something that every business should understand and implement.

If it is not ecologically sustainable is not economically sustainable.

The above lines are simple yet powerful like all great quotes. Sustainability is the key to any long term change. The same applies for making plastic alternatives popular as well.

The Government of Karnataka recently banned single use plastics in India. This was a good step in the right direction but I think it should have been more thought through. Every shopkeeper doesn’t want to use single use plastics as they are banned. But still the alternatives have not yet caught up. To make something sustainable we need to address the three Cs.

3Cs for sustainability

COST

In fact if you look at single use plastics the low price/cost was one of the major reasons it became ubiquitous. That is something we need to learn from our enemy. Making organic alternatives to single use plastics affordable is the first step. Some shopkeepers used to charge one rupee for the regular use single plastic. It might be very difficult to bring down the price of organic bags to these levels. These are the following approaches we can take to bring down the price.

Advertisements on the Bags

I always wondered how newspapers that had multiple sheets of paper and print could be sold for less than 1 rupee. My dad opened the pages that contained the ads and explained to me that these ads are what makes it a sustainable business. This was the first time I realised that the selling price of something can be less than the cost price thanks to advertisements.

Ads bring down the cost

We can use the same approach to bring down the cost of organic bags. Recently there have been judgements against the outlets that sold bags with their logos on it. The law needs to be changed such that it safeguards the consumer interest at the same time allows the ad model to bring down the cost of Organic bags. If you want to advertise with The Bag click the following link I would like to advertise

Donations from Eco conscious people

donate until we don’t need donations

We wouldn’t have a need for donations if we had better pricing models.

Better pricing models doesn’t just consider the cost of resources spent making something but they will also consider the future price the humanity has to pay keeping in mind the waste disposal costs and the cost of damaging the nature.

Since we have not reached that level of awoke(aware) pricing models we have to resort to Donations from individuals or subsidies from the Government. To kickstart this I am donating 5000 INR to my wife’s startup so that they can give away 500 bags of worth 10 rupees each.

When end users use these bags for free of cost and are happy with this initiative, I am hoping that it will drive them to donate to this cause or at-least purchase that one bag so that the next free bag can be given to somebody else.

If you would like to sponsor the donation of organic bags click following links.

I want to donate 10 bags, I want to donate 100 bags or I want to donate 1000 bags

Reduce cost per use

Even with the above two options we may not be able to bring down the actual cost of organic bags to one rupee per bag. But we can bring the down effective cost by increasing the number of times a bag is reused.

reducing effective cost by reuse

Let us say with the above approaches we are able to bring down the cost of a bag to 15 rupees. Then if we can make sure that it is reused fifteen times we have effectively reduce the price per use to one rupee which matters.

For a bag to be reused convenience is the primary factor which we will discuss next.

CONVENIENCE

convenience matters

Once things are affordable the next step is convenience. We generally resort to single use plastic because we don’t have the organic bags handy. So the trick is to make these bags handy.

You as a user — Plan

Follow this simple mantra. Keep one organic bag in your backpack, one in your bike/car and one near the exit door. Following this simple rule can bring down your usage of unnecessary bags whether they are single use or organic.

You as a shopkeeper — Bring Your Own Bag(BYOB)

Invest a share of your profits in keeping organic bags available to shoppers. Tell them “Bring your own Bag, If you forgot this time you can take this bag for X rupees. Once you return the bag we will give back your money”.

If they heed your advise well and good. If they don’t ask them to take it free of cost and return it without forgetting. If they return you can use it to create awareness in the next user in your shop. If they don’t just assume that they are using to replace single use plastics ;)

For the free bags you can even consider adding your own brand logo.

COOLNESS

Make it cool and they will adopt it.

Together we should bring awareness such that people realise that going green and reducing the waste is the actual cool. We should trend tags like #gogreengocool #greenisthenewblack #zerowaste so that more and more youngster join the trend bandwagon.

We can also make it cool by selecting the trendy designs for the bags. Come out with creative and innovative designs and quotes. Here are couple of designs I liked .

Make it cool

If you have any suggestions are if you can help out their initiative in any way check follow them on Facebook and leave them a message.

Gokul N K

Written by

Gokul N K

Inquisitive, Student, Teacher and a wanna be Story teller. Working on https://learningpaths.io/

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