She is only 25. But the Mumbai-based youngster, Niyati Shah, is an absolute warrior for the environment. Despite being an MBA in marketing and graduating in finance, and having worked in the corporate space for two years, she gave it all up to kickstart a unique personal project.
One with which she aims to reduce carbon footprints and ensure plastic bottles don’t choke landfills.
Growing up, Niyati had always been a gardening enthusiast. She would grow some indoor and outdoor plants in regular plastic pots, as most urban gardeners would do. Until she sensed trouble.
Her plants were dying.
The plastic pots did not leave enough space for air and water to reach the bottom-most layer of the plant. As a result, sometimes due to lack of nourishment and at most times due to water clogging their roots, they would die.
And so, she set off on a journey to find a sustainable and green alternative to these plastic pots.
An outcome of her efforts in this regard is her six-month-old organisation, ‘Grow Bags-A Smarter & Healthier Solution’
PET or plastic bottles are some of the biggest contributors choking our landfills today. Giving this plastic waste a new lease on life, Grow Bags recycles them to create a cloth-like bag that can be used to grow plants.
Speaking to The Better India, Niyati says, “I made a conscious effort to make sure I did not add to the existing mountains of waste to the environment with virgin plastic (commonly used to make regular pots). Instead, I wanted to make a product which would help my plants breathe easy with sufficient air and water, which also uses existing plastic by recycling it.”
In light of the state-wide plastic ban, these “Grow Bags” can serve as a green and sustainable alternative to environment-threatening plastic pots.
How are Grow Bags made?
When Niyati first initiated the project, she tied up with small stakeholders like raddiwalas from whom she would procure these PET bottles and then take them to plastic crushing units.
While she did it individually earlier, in the last six months, she has built an all-women’s team of five members who help her make the final product and has tied up with various stake holders in the process
This is later used to form plastic film sheets. These sheets are processed in a pot-maker which mixes certain fibres to form a final product, which is a cloth-like material.
What is the USP of these bags?
These bags are porous and therefore absorb air, water, and sunlight in a more efficient manner than regular plastic pots.
They prevent water wastage. While a regular plastic pot comes with holes underneath it, what happens at most times is that water runs through it quickly. This can lead the gardener to excessively water the plants, thereby damaging them in the process.
Grow bags are an effective solution to this problem since they don’t require holes and the material being porous, allows water to pass naturally like it would through a cloth.
When should the gardener stop watering then? Once the bag is filled!
The cloth-like material of the Grow Bag, apart from facilitating aeration for the roots, allows air pruning too. (Air pruning is the process in which a root stops growing, but naturally encourages new roots to sprout.) This will result in a branched root structure which covers a greater area and uses water and nutrients effectively, leading to healthier plants and better yields.
How do you avail of these grow bags?
With five-year durability, these grow bags are available in different shapes and sizes. From fruits to vegetables, flowers as well as indoor plants, you can use these to grow everything you like as they are BPA free and healthy for organic/ kitchen gardening
Once you think your plant has outgrown the size of the bag, you can wash and reuse the bag and even recycle it.
And before you think it is going to burn a hole in your pocket, Niyati is quick to clear that the price is in the same range as a regular plastic pot.
Till date, Niyati has supplied over 100 such grow bags to corporates, NGOs, and other customers.
Niyati even had the chance to present her project to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which later invited her to put up a stall at the three-day plastic alternatives exhibition in Mumbai. Niyati was able to spread awareness on the danger of plastic waste and promote her project among the general public.
“The product has been receiving great feedback. We have gotten a few thousand pre-orders, and we cannot wait for them to convert. And though we are relatively a small team, we are slowly trying to expand on all fronts. Plants are such an important source of oxygen, but what is the point if we grow them in plastic pots that are a threat to the environment? We don’t want to give our customers a short-term solution. We are looking give them a long-term solution, where they feel proud about using an alternative that completes the recycling chain,” signs off Niyati.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)