From laptops to household items and even hospital IV bags, plastic has found a place in almost every aspect of human life. While it has made our lives easier, we are all aware of the several risks associated with the use of plastic and the harm it causes to the environment and our bodies.
However, many people are slowly turning to greener and healthier alternatives, and sometimes, when they do not find one—they create it themselves!
Arun Balachandran and his wife, Jyoti, are a Bengaluru-based couple who did just that, and what started out as a home-based project, grew into a unique social enterprise.
Arun is a management consultant and was looking for eco-friendly replacements for the plastic trash bags he would earlier use at his home. Unable to find one, he decided to make one himself and roped Jyoti in as well.
It took the couple several attempts to make a garbage bag sturdy enough to carry kitchen waste. After several setbacks, they finally created a product which met all their requirements. The praise that the final product met with from friends and family inspired them to turn it into a business, which they named GreenBUG.
Things took an interesting turn when their friend suggested that they turn this business into a social enterprise.
The couple attempted to work with women from Madanapalle mandal, a village in Andhra Pradesh, but after facing stiff resistance from the men who refused to provide any support to the women, they had to eventually give up the idea.
Arun and Jyoti then reached out to women in Bengaluru itself, via an NGO. The Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA), which works for community development, connected the couple to a group of women from low-income families in different parts of the city.
This attempt was far more successful, and today, GreenBUG has trained about 100 women belonging to different areas in the city, including Jayanagar, Koramangala, Doddakannelli and Kanakapura. These women were in intensive need of financial help and used most of their income to pay for their children’s school education.
GreenBUG thus provides them with a supplementary income.
The process is simple, and the items required to make the bag—newspaper, maida, stencil (to make the folds in the bags), and jute tie-strings—are easy to procure. The final product is made up of multiple layers of newspapers, so it does not tear or get soggy while carrying wet waste.
Jyoti’s participation in a women entrepreneurship programme held at IIM-Bengaluru led to GreenBUG’s incubation in the prestigious institution in 2016 and formalised their product.
Priced at Rs 5 for one bag, the garbage bag costs more than regular plastic bags. However, their sale has been commendable, and they are now getting orders from all over the country.
“We believe that most people are environmentally conscious, but struggle to be earth-friendly due to a lack of practical and affordable alternatives. If we need to make a switch to degradable items, then a collective approach should be undertaken. Spreading awareness and simultaneously developing green options is the need of the hour. GreenBUG’s aim is to make things easier for people to switch over from plastic garbage bags”, Arun told NDTV.