Tenith Adithyaa was just 11 years old when he saw farmers in his native Watrap village in Virudhunagar district, Tamil Nadu, throw heaps of banana leaves into the trash bin. Out of curiosity, he asked the farmers why they were burning these leaves that were often used during festivals to serve meals. Their response was simple. The wilted leaves had no use for them.
Was there a way to enhance their lifespan? Adithyaa’s curious nature did not let him forget the incident. Later in life, inspired by a dream to create a superior and sustainable biomaterial that could one day replace paper or synthetic materials like plastic, Adithyaa embarked upon four years of research in his homemade laboratory.
After a series of trials and errors, he finally arrived at an innovation called the Banana Leaf Technology which enhances the shelf life of banana leaves to three years from their average shelf life of three days organically without using any artificial chemicals. For his unique invention, he received an international award at the global science fair in Texas, USA, in 2014.
“Naturally, leaves and most biomaterials degrade within a shelf lifespan of three days and are discarded as waste. Banana leaf technology is a cellular eco-friendly technology that preserves leaves and organic biomaterials for a year without the use of any chemicals. This technology enhances the leaves’ physical properties thus making a viable biodegradable material alternative to both plastic and paper,” states this description on his website.
These preserved leaves can not only survive under extreme climatic conditions, but carry more weight than in their original form. Upto one year, the leaf can be preserved in its natural green colour, and going beyond that it’s shelf life span extends to three years.
“The technology enhances cells, strengthens cell walls of leaves and prevents pathogenic agents from destroying the cells. These processed biomaterials are biodegradable, healthy, pathogenic resistant, human-friendly and completely eco-friendly. A viable replacement for disposables, it prevents the destruction of around 7 billion trees annually,” the website adds.
Speaking to The Better India, Adithyaa (22) says, “There are no artificial chemicals needed in the processing of these leaves. We don’t need any additional products besides the leaves themselves. This technology is deployed using machines for commercial purposes. We use banana leaves because this is a commonly found raw material.”
From plates, cups, envelopes, straws and boxes, one can make multiple products out of this banana leaf technology. Owing to the economical, innovative and environmental impact of this technology, it has received over seven international awards and two national awards, including the prestigious International Environmental Award, International Green Technology Award, Technology for the Future Award among other esteemed recognitions.
The advantages are clear. It is organic, chemical free, 100 per cent biodegradable, results in no landfill and waste production, causes no deforestation and prevents environmental destruction. Since it’s organic, sterilized, UV treated, chemical free and 100 per cent organic, this technology is good for health as well. The cost of processing a single leaf is USD $0.01.
“We are not in the manufacturing of banana leaf products. Our business model revolves around the transfer of technology to people interested in manufacturing these products. Multiple industries can utilise this technology for their day to day use. This particular business model is the most efficient because we don’t want to restrict this technology for a couple of products and industries,” claims Adithyaa, a serial innovator, scientist, software developer, science campaigner and motivational speaker.
“We price this transfer of technology depending on what kind of products a manufacturer produces, nature of the business (if it’s a non-profit the price comes down exponentially and the opposite for commercial for profit entities), the volume of products manufactured and market potential, amongst others,” he adds.
Although this technology was invented nearly a decade ago, it requires a battery of testing for commercialisation. After testing it for almost a decade, his firm commercialised this technology a couple of months back.
“We are currently in discussion with 10 companies, most of whom are based out of this country. From manufacturing plates to straws, these companies are looking at making different products. The terms of the license are non-exclusive. We can’t have one company monopolising this technology. Our objective here is to protect the environment, and ultimately the market will arrive at a point where this technology is economically viable. Saving the environment is our mission. The strategy is to spread this innovation to everyone,” he adds.
Those interested in business to purchase this technology for Banana leaf product manufacturing can reach the firm on their website.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)