Can you imagine collecting a parcel for a dal or a curry from one of the favourite restaurants in a paper bag? Further, what if the paper packaging guarantees to be leak-proof for two days? A Goa-based startup – LaFabrica Craft – has innovated just that -a packaging solution that allows liquid food items to be carried in a biodegradable packaging solution.
“The practice of food packaging and delivery in the food and restaurant business is predominantly centred around plastic or aluminium containers. These containers either pile up in our homes or probably enter a landfill,” says Sachin Gangadharan, an architect who quit his job and co-founded the startup in 2019.
“We are essentially solving the problem aiming to replace all of this plastic packaging with environmentally friendly solutions,” adds 29-year-old Sachin. Sachin said the company has worked out solutions even for carrying heavy items in biodegradable paper bags.
46 Hours Shelf Life for Paper
“The biodegradable packaging is made with recycled paper pulp or enzymes drawn from cotton, wheat husk or other organic material. The paper is made mostly from carbon-neutral practices. The paper is shaped into a pouch by self-help groups and locals,” Sachin explained.
For leak-proof packaging, Sachin said the paper is layered with Poly Lactic Acid (PLA), which is a polymer mainly derived from corn or tapioca starch.
“The method is already used in the market. But our patented material, combined with the protective layer, helps achieve the outcome,” he said.
Sachin said if not disturbed, the liquid food items could be retained for precisely 46 hours before it starts leaking. The paper is manufactured by the company as per the requirements of the clients and delivered accordingly.
“The thickness of the material varies depending on the use. We are already supplying the product to a local restaurant in Goa,” Sachin said.
Once used, the packaging could be put in a compost which allows it to biodegrade through an anaerobic process.
Beyond the leak-proof packaging, the startup has also devised strengthened paper bags enabling them to carry weight up to 15 kgs or more. “It means the paper bag does the job of a plastic bag of 50 microns which has the same weight carrying capacity,” Sachin told The Better India.
The paper bags can fold into wallet shaped items or a bit longer depending on the size.
“We have designed paper material and wrapped it around unique folds giving it the necessary strength and convenience to carry the items,” Sachin said.
The bags with an 8-kilo carrying capacity costs Rs 12-15 per piece, while the bags with the 10, 15 and 20-kilo carrying capacity costs between Rs 15-30, depending on the size.
“The price for these bags is equal to the other bags in the market making them affordable,” said Shivnay Sabharwal, co-founder of the company. Shivnay added the leak-proof packaging bags cost Rs 250 to 300 per kilo having 250 pieces. Thus each piece costs Rs 1.5 to 2.
How it unfolded
Though the startup got launched in 2019, Sachin said he had been working on the same for almost three years.
“In 2016, I was working as a designer for an interior and architect startup in Mangalore and moved to Goa a year later to work as a furniture designer. In both the workplaces, I saw many pet bottles and plastic waste in the office. There used to be casual discussions about the problem and the need to solve them,” Sachin said.
The entrepreneur said that on one occasion, a friend of his said, “The consumer is the problem and not the manufacturer. That is when I decided to become a channel to replace consumer habits by manufacturing alternate environment-friendly solutions.”
Sachin said that he started working on the idea of replacing plastic bags with paper. “I experimented with many folds and different types of designs. There was a need for innovation to bring strength to carry heavy weights in paper bags,” he added.
The youngster said with hundreds of combinations, he finally came up with a design that worked. “Once I got the folds right and desired strength, it was decided to move ahead with the solution. I quit my job in June 2018 and started the venture,” Sachin said.
Just another folding paper
However, Sachin said that selling the product and creating a framework for the market was the trickiest part.
“We struggled to create the framework for customers as technically we were just offering a folded piece of paper. Potential customers had to be convinced about the uniqueness of the product, the idea behind it and its strengths,” Sachin said.
The other aspect was the range of products. “We did not have a range of products to offer. Also, people who wanted to switch to the alternatives had to be offered focussed choices. The COVID-19 lockdown gave us some time to work on those aspects,” he added.
“There are biodegradable paper masks and other packaging alternatives for soap, food items and room fresheners as well,” Shivnay added.
Shivnay said the PLA coating needs to be composted in order to fully biodegrade, and more work is needed on that front. “We are working on using corn and bagasse products to replace PLA, which will ensure that packaging biodegrades naturally even without the need of composting,” he added.
The biodegradable products can be ordered at +919633747004.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)