“If We Have the Power to Damage, We Can Also Repair”: Interview with VC of Compostable Solutions Platform Chuk
Do you get pangs of guilt when throwing away one-time used plastic and styrofoam plates and glasses? Though plastic has been a great invention, it turned out to be a bane more than a boon. The numbers speak for themselves. As per reports, only 9% of 9 billion tonnes of plastic has been recycled, 12% is incinerated, while 79% of it ends up in either landfills or the oceans. The first plastics were only created about 70 years back and still have about 430 years before they start decomposing. Plastic pollution ranks second on the list of serious global issues.
Chuk, a compostable solutions platform, is a vision for creating an environmental movement in India by shifting the entire range of tableware from styrofoam or single-use plastic to compostable tableware. Ved Krishna, the Strategy Head and Vice Chairman of Chuk, spoke to The Tech Panda about the dangers that plastics pose for us.
“We are facing loss of biodiversity, we are on the brink of a sixth mass extinction, and still there is no thunder in the storm. 25 Indian states have banned plastic; yet every day, Indian cities generate 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste, enough to fill 1,500 trucks, at 10 tonnes per truck, of which 9,000 tonnes are collected and processed/recycled. The remaining 6,000 tonnes, or 600 truckloads, usually litter drains, streets, or are dumped in landfills, according to a report of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB),” he says.
What inspired Chuk
Krishna was troubled by the fact that most paper used in packaging, especially food, was plastic-coated, laminated, or covered in cellophane, and was harmful for the environment. He wanted to build a movement towards environment sustainability by taking the route of compostable solutions through Chuk.
After 14 years of successfully running a pulp and paper company that used sugarcane waste as raw material and biomass as fuel, realization hit that the world requires more towards building a safer and cleaner environment.
“We were troubled by the fact that most paper used in packaging is not only harmful for the environment but also human health,” he says.
Introspection led to clarity, and he worked towards finding and providing more earth-friendly packaging solutions, and thus Chuk was conceived in 2014 with an investment of INR 60 crores. The Chuk team takes sugarcane waste as a raw material and returns it to earth as Chuk, which biodegrades to manure within a few months.
“We wanted to build a movement towards environment sustainability and decided to shift our business to find and provide alternatives to plastic-based flexible packaging and styrofoam,” he explains.
How Chuk works
The company manufactures tableware products made out of bagasse, which are 100% compostable and can decompose within months in backyard compostable systems. Bagasse pulp makes products lightweight, flexible, microwaveable, and strong enough to prevent leakage.
The dedicated R&D team at Chuk has been highly focused towards creating unique products. The team pioneered the concept of eco-friendly yet modular designs focused on making crucial innovations and changes in the manufacturing process and techniques to produce strong Lego-based pieces, which has multiple uses. The compostable solutions used in the products make them decompose within months.
Chuk, under the umbrella brand, Yash Papers, since its inception in 2007, has been the only player in India that controls the entire chain from manufacturing to finished products and also supplies raw material to most other manufacturers of bio-degradable products in the country.
The primary goal of the company is to provide the world with ‘Good Garbage’ by creating innovative compostable solutions that benefit the planet by being biodegradable and compostable and to urge people to use compostable tableware instead of plastic.
The Chuk Infrastructure
Chuk was awarded the Design Excellence Award 2017 in the category of household products. It also won the Red Dot Design Award, 2018 for its breakthrough design in backyard compostable tableware. Its compostable tableware was showcased at a special exhibition at the Red Dot Design Museum in Germany.
The infrastructure of Chuk consists of 3 paper machines that produce specialised grades for wrapping, packaging, interleaving, food, and pharmaceutical uses, their production capacity totalling 39,100 MTPA (Million Tonnes Per Annum). They also have an integrated pulp mill, which produces both bleached and unbleached pulp grades from agro-based raw materials, with a total capacity of 130 TPD (Tonnes Per Day). In addition, they have 2 power plants with extraction-cum-condensing turbines and rice husk-based FBC boilers.
Apart from this, they have a chemical recovery plant and an elaborate R&D setup that focuses on the individual needs of customers and researches specific solutions for them. Chuk claims to have dumped 308 tonnes of biodegradable products (Good garbage) in place of plastic since January 2018, because of which, 22.5 million people ate safe.
India needs more awareness campaigns
Krishna says there is a need to spread awareness amongst masses that can be propagated through national-level campaigns. He also envisages that the awareness around the issue should not only be spread amongst the urban educated but also flow down to the rural masses.
“It is exigent that people are aware of their alternatives and what Styrofoam and plastic products do to their health and environment. If we have the power to damage, we can also repair. Though it will take some time to move cost-conscious styrofoam users, it is imperative that we keep pressing the issue. We are in an economy that presently is not focused on seeing the damage that carcinogenic products cause in the longer run; it is not only disrupting the environment but is also hampering human health to a huge extent” he says.
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