13 November 2009

bio boxes

I think plastic and its derivatives are on its way out. It is fast becoming a redundant concept. We should stop hanging on to it and take a look around at what else is available, biodegradable and eco-friendly. The Eco Expo in Hong Kong was a real eye opener in terms of alternative packaging material. I've made a passing mention on these alternatives in my previous post. Some of these innovations have been around for awhile like bagasse take-away food boxes which are made out of sugar-cane waste after the juice for sugar manufacture is extracted. These are reusable to a degree, microwaveable and freezer safe and they bio degrade within 3 months. They can be molded into plates, glasses etc which are excellent for party-ware.

PSM material is another innovation that has a larger scale of use. It is a plastic substitute made from corn starch and can be used for disposable dinnerware, food containers, electronic packaging, toiletries, carrier bags, stationery etc. This material is water-proof, oil-proof, heat resistant. It bio degrades to water and Co2 and when incinerated produces non-toxic smoke and the residual ash can be used a fertilizer. The UK based smoothie company Innocent already used corn-starch bottles for their bottles. They are still working on alternative materials for their caps.

Rice husks are being molded into melamine-type crockery and cutlery by a company in Malaysia which are repeatedly reusable. microwave, dishwasher safe and when they reach the end of their life can be safely composted. This is an excellent idea of upcycling or turning waste material into useful products.

India also produces these recyclable material like bagasse boxes and plates, cups etc made out of areca nut leaves. Areca nut is the precursor of beetle nuts and the leaf sheath of the tree dries out naturally which is collected, dried and molded into desired shapes. The next time you have a party consider this option instead of paper or foil plates. Areca nut plates can be composted and they bio degrade easily. India has a rich natural tradition of using natural materials and it is a shame that we are now copying the west. Bring back the time when food used to be packed in a banana leaf and newspaper. Do away with plastic, when you can, where you can. Insist that your local take-away or favourite restaurant uses eco-friendly packaging material, or better yet take your own boxes with you when you order in.

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