KOCHI: With an objective to reduce plastic usage, Kothamangalam native Bittu John opened his grocery store, ‘7 to 9 Green Store’ at Kolenchery, six months ago, with a motive to reduce plastic waste. As most of the plastic materials at homes come from grocery stores or bakeries in the form of carry bags, Bittu has introduced a concept that encourages customers to avoid plastic usage.
“The concept is called BYOC —Bring Your Own Container. It’s encouraging people to refill and reuse. The store is an advanced version of the existing grocery store. Around 20 years ago, we used to visit stores with bottles to get edible oil. Now, we go to the shops and buy those packed in plastic covers or bottles. If we buy 10 items from a store, all of it will be packed in plastic covers. In this store, the items are stored in tight bins and customers can come and fill their containers or bottles from them. So the menace of packing cover is avoided,” says Bittu.
Customers also have the option to get paper bags, organic cotton bags or glass bottles from the store. “Glass bottles and cotton bags are priced at different rates. Cotton bags are a one-time investment. Once the items are unloaded at home, they can carry the same bags to buy the groceries again. So the concept of reuse comes to life. Also, you can return the glass bottles after use and the money will be refunded,” he says.
The customers who return with carry bags gets a discount of two per cent every time they shop. “While making people aware of the concept of reuse and refill, they must also benefit from it.” Bittu, who completed MTech from Viswajyothi College of Engineering and Technology at Vazhakulam, was working in Bengaluru. While on a visit to London, he came across a grocery store which promoted zero plastic usage. “My dad already ran a grocery store.
I thought why not to implement it in Kerala as well. Malayalees dump approximately 4,80,000 kilograms of plastic waste every day. Only seven per cent of plastic waste is being recycled. The aftereffects of our activity will be so hazardous,” he says. Bittu’s store is considered to be the first store in the state to embrace the BYOC concept. As of now, as many as 2 lakh paper bags and 12,000 plastic bottles have been sold at his store.
Customers can avail items in loose quantities. “If a customer buys 20 items from my store, 15 will be free of plastic covering. A person who buys mineral water from outside have to pay Rs 20 for the same and the bottle is thrown away. At the store, they can fill the same quantity of water for Rs 5,” says Bittu. He affirms that setting up the store was challenging and expensive. However, the selling part was easy and the store gets around 250 customers daily. Seeing Bittu’s efforts to curb plastic usage, several schools have invited him to lead awareness classes.