Avani Eco is an Indonesian company that was established in 2014 with the aim of combating the global plastic epidemic. Its solution has been to create an eco-friendly alternative. Avani produces bio-cassava bags, made from cassava starch and other natural ingredients. The disposable, single-use plastics that have made their way into the oceans could take hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years to decompose. It’s a disheartening fact. But if replacements, like those from Avani, become the norm, then we can stop exacerbating the problem. This company illustrates how we can enjoy the conveniences of food packaging, without destroying the planet’s precious ecosystems.
The global plastic epidemic
Plastic fills the oceans worldwide. The amount of plastic debris in the sea is set to rise from 50 million metric tons in 2015 to 150 million tons by 2025. That’s if we continue to rely on single-use plastics. This non-biodegradable waste poses a huge threat to marine biodiversity. The Future of the Sea report, published by the UK government, states:
There is extensive evidence that entanglement in, or ingestion of, plastics can cause injury and death to a wide range of marine organisms, including commercially important fish and shellfish.
The report also sends out a warning about microplastics, pointing to evidence that they harm sea creatures and restrict their movements, as well as pollute beaches. These tiny pieces of plastic can also enter our bodies via shellfish and tap water. There is a potential danger that microplastics can accumulate toxic chemicals.
Based in Indonesia, Avani understands just how bad the problem of plastic can get. Indeed, Indonesia is second only to China as the world’s largest contributor to plastic pollution. The whole of Southeast Asia, in fact, struggles with this issue. Living in Thailand, I came to realise how plastic is used for absolutely everything and often unnecessarily (like for single bananas). Also, since tap water is not drinkable in this part of the world, you end up buying so many bottles of water, unless you have a reusable bottle, of course.
Seaweed – a raw material which is abundant in Indonesia – could be used as a viable replacement for plastic. As Red Planet previously reported, Evoware and Skipping Rocks Lab are two Indonesian start-ups that have developed biodegradable and edible seaweed-based packaging.
Avani Eco’s solution
Avani hasn’t opted to use seaweed as its raw material. For its eco bags, the company uses the edible part of the cassava plant, the starch. Its bags are non-toxic, sturdy, biodegradable and compostable in months, certified non-GMO, and contain no petroleum. However, Avani’s bags have been subject to criticism for not actually being that eco-friendly in the long run.
Avani state on their website that all of their products are derived from renewable sources and that they promote a closed-loop circular economy by recovering all materials at the end of its product’s life cycle. As well as bags, Avani offers a wide range of products, including ponchos, cups, cutlery, and straws made from corn starch, boxes made from bagasse (the dry pulpy residue left after the extraction of juice from sugar cane), and wooden cutlery.
Food delivery service Deliveroo recently announced that it will be sourcing compostable drinking straws from Avani.
About the author: Sam Woolfe @samwoolfe
Sam is a freelance writer who is particularly interested in space exploration, sustainability, tech, and agriculture.