If a “biodegradable” plastic bag ends up in the ocean, it’s unlikely to actually break down for years–and even if it does, the tiny pieces that remain can harm wildlife. An Indonesian startup has a different solution: a bag that ocean animals can have for dinner.
The Avani “Eco Bag” is made from cassava root–a plant that grows in the wild in Indonesia–and vegetable oil, and printed with nontoxic ink. The bag is designed for composting. But if it’s littered and makes it way to the ocean, the company claims that it’s safe for wildlife to eat.
The startup fed the bags to animals in its office to no ill effect. “Sometimes they even fought one another for the cassava bags–they’re that good,” says Kevin Kumala, co-founder of Avani. The bags also passed oral toxicity tests with an independent lab.
If they’re doused in hot water, the bags quickly dissolve–and the resulting cassava tea is apparently safe to drink, which Kumala demonstrated in a video you can see here.
Indonesia is second only to China in the volume of ocean plastic waste it produces. And while plastic bags might not exist at all in an ideal world, the company believes that its product–along with its other non-plastic disposable items, such as takeout boxes and a compostable rain poncho–is a practical alternative.
“We are actually big proponents of the 3Rs–reduce, reuse, and recycle,” says Kumala. “I personally still carry my own reusable grocery bags when going grocery shopping. However, with the hustle and bustle of today’s lifestyle people tend to forget a lot. ‘Replace’ becomes more of a convenient answer, especially if you’re now able to replace petroleum-based plastic with renewable resources which do not cost that much more in terms of its economical value.”
The cassava-based bags cost two to three cents more than a typical plastic bag. “When you talk about the difference in magnitude of multiplication, it is about 2x the price,” he says. “However, the question we like to raise is, what is two cents more when you can help reduce the plastic waste that is currently occurring on our planet?”
[Photos: via Avani]