COIMBATORE: For S Kalyana Kumar, sustainable living comes first. The young industrialist is investing his time and energy, and seeking to eliminate the use of plastic bags from our daily lives. Eco-friendly products are in vogue and they resonate with Tamil Nadu’s green campaign, ‘Meendum Manjappai’.It was seven years ago that the 39-year-old from Salem joined his father’s business of designing machines. Now, the BBA dropout is busy manufacturing contraptions and equipment in Coimbatore that make single-use products from natural wastes.
Kumar’s uses the most unusual raw materials for the products — rice and wheat bran, banana leaf, tubers, millet waste, tamarind seeds, groundnut shell, straw and other organic waste and pulp. What is more exciting is his flexibility to switch between raw materials depending on their availability.
His range of equipment helps you roll out ten different types of single-use products using 15 biodegradable organic waste materials such as paddy husk, banana waste, and wood pulp. The products, which include five types of teacups, four types of juice and wine glasses, water bottles, regular flask, airtight flask, and food containers of different sizes and quality, can be recycled, used as cattle fodder, and are easily biodegradable, he says.
“We began making products from areca leaf two years ago as an alternative to single-use plastic. But shortage of raw materials was a challenge. To overcome that, we started using multiple organic waste materials,” he adds.
Supriya Sahu, TN’s Principal Secretary of environment, is obviously excited. At an exhibition during the launch of the ‘Meendum Manjapai’ campaign, Kumar was among the many who displayed their products in Chennai. Sahu shared Kumar’s products on Twitter, drawing several positive comments. “We invited people involved in producing such alternative products to the exhibition. All of them had impressive stories to share. Using rice bran to make food containers and teacups is environment and health-friendly. Initiatives such as these will help us, as district administrations are trying to take these products to people,” she says.
The question, though, is how financially viable are his products. A government-approved paper cup sells for `1.50 apiece. “We can make 30 teacups using one kg of paddy husk that costs `14 a kg. Factoring in the manufacturing cost of 65 paise per cup, each cup could be sold for `1.50 per piece in retail market. If we use banana leaf waste, we can make these cups at even more cheaper rates. Cost can be tweaked depending on the raw material and quality,” says Kumar. The products are affordable, disposable, leak proof and come with airtight packing option. They can be sold at a cost equal to wax-coated plates or silver foil.A Abdulla Sait (43), who runs a herbal medicine store at KK Nagar in Chennai, says he has is planning to start his own production unit after his training stint with Kumar.
At present, Kumar gets orders for nearly 10 lakh teacups a month. The Manjappai campaign has come as a shot in the arm and more government departments have expressed interest in buying machines from him to distribute them to women’s self-help groups. “If government reduces the GST from 18 per cent, and offer subsidy on electricity, more people will take up the production of these products,” adds Kumar.