In 2012, when the Mangaluru City Corporation banned plastic bags, it inspired a young city boy to find a 100% biodegradable alternative for plastics.
Ashwath Hegde, now 24 years old, runs the Bengaluru-based Envigreen Biotech India Private Ltd, a company that manufactures plastic that is "non-toxic to the environment, animals and plants.”
"While plastic takes 300-1,000 years to degrade, these (EnviGreen) will degrade within 30-120 days," says Ashwath.
"Most of the compostable plastic currently available requires industrial composting. EnviGreen plastic however degrades in the natural environment. It also dissolves in water which is 80 degree Celsius and above. If you set it on fire, it will burn just like paper and will not produce any toxic fumes,” he says.
This is because the company uses natural starches from tapioca, vegetable oil derivatives and vegetable waste to make its plastic.
Apart from carry bags, EnviGreen also makes a range of other products including trash bags, plastic sheets used in hospitals, aprons, packaging films and laundry bags.
Also a management student, Ashwath is currently pursuing a PG Diploma (Distance Education) from Cambridge Marketing College. "I initially wanted to be a lawyer," he says.
Shortly after the 2012 ban on plastic bags in his hometown, Ashwath moved to Qatar where he founded another company called Green Corporation.
He simultaneously also began R&D work for biodegradable plastics with the help of scientists. The company launched its first biodegradable shopping bags on Qatar's National Environment Day, i.e. February 26, last year.
A few months later, EnviGreen was also officially born in Bengaluru.
Ashwath recently made it to the Forbes India 30 Under 30 2017 list.
"Every rainy season, Bengaluru experiences artificial floods. That is mostly because of water blockage caused by plastic. Our products won't cause this problem and can be a solution to the city's garbage problems," he says.
While they have started manufacturing in Bengaluru and are already supplying to corporates, the company will roll out retail operations in a month or so. Its products at present are 40% more expensive than the regular plastic available in the market, but they could see a dip in prices as the company is working to reduce costs.
"We are also working on research to use the technology to make gutka wrappers," Ashwath states.