Amid the global challenge of plastic waste, there are some individuals who stand out for their innovative approaches to sustainability. Manigandan Kumarappan, founder of Evlogia Eco Care, a Bengaluru-based startup is one of them. Established in 2018, it has been at the forefront of producing eco-friendly drinking straws from agricultural waste. It employs only local women.
The entrepreneur simply expanded the scope of his previous startup, Tenco foods—a supplier of fresh, tender coconuts. Kumarappan caught on to the need for eco-friendly alternatives to replace plastic straws. “Not only are they a better replacement, but also address the issue of waste from coconut plantations,” he says.
Evlogia began work by collecting coconut leaves from various regions like Krishnagiri and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and Tumakuru in Karnataka, collaborating with women self-help groups backed by the government as well as some private NGOs. “We have provided training to women who collect the leaves, sort, cut, and clean them before sending them to us,” he says.
The startup has a production capacity of 10,000 organic and compostable straws per day. The company supplies not only to the Indian market, but also international distributors in countries such as the US, UK, Germany and Canada. The cost of a straw ranges from Rs 1.5 to Rs 3 .
The production is carried out by a team of 20 local women employees. “Our target is to increase production threefold,” says Kumarappan, who is actively working on automating to increase productivity, which has increased by 50 percent in the last four years. The estimated monthly agriculture waste elimination of 150 tonnes underscores the positive impact on the environment. “We are targeting at least 10-20 times more than this,” he adds.
The 48-year-old emphasises the importance of safety and hygeine in Evlogia’s manufacturing process. “We ensure that the coconut leaves are suitable for direct food contact by thoroughly sterilising them. By subjecting the leaves to steam pressure at high temperatures, potential pathogens and residues are removed,” the entrepreneur reveals.
Running a sustainable business is not without obstacles. Competing with low-cost synthetic alternatives, such as plastic or paper products, is a big hurdle. “Convincing people to choose our eco-friendly alternatives at a premium price requires a delicate balance of education and raising awareness,” he explains. The startup’s next project is venturing into making plates, cups and container boxes by the end of the year. A simple leaf can go miles to stress sustainability.