Fighting plastic pollution with plants
How one company plans to replace Indonesia's disposable plastic with plant-based and compostable alternatives.
I've always wanted to visit Indonesia. Drawn in by the technicolour sunsets, crystal blue waters, luscious rainforests and incredible sea life. Lucky for me, I just got married and my new husband and I decided to have spend our honeymoon galavanting around Bali and Lombok.
We drank cocktails, boated through mangrove forests in Nusa Lembongan, SCUBA dived with manta rays at Nusa Penida, people-watched in Seminyak, trekked through the shadow of Mount Rinjani in Lombok to play in the clear and fresh waters of Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep Waterfalls. But as amazing as I knew this trip would be, I knew in the back of my mind that Indonesia was tacking a growing plastic pollution problem.
It has been estimated that 1.15 to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic waste enters our oceans EACH YEAR. That's equivalent to between 40,000 and 80,000 adult humpback whales by mass. Indonesia alone accounts for 200,000 tonnes from its rivers and streams, making it the second largest contributor to marine plastic pollution after China.
The hotspots of plastic pollution in Indonesia are Java and Sumatra, but the issue is deeply engrained in every corner of this country of islands. Bali alone produces over 1,000 cubic meters of plastic waste EVERY DAY. Many of you have probably seen the video below, which went viral in March this year. British diver, Rich Horner, films himself swimming through a literal soup of plastic rubbish at one of Indonesia's most population dive sites, Manta Point off Nusa Penida. It's Manta Point because the area is an important cleaning station for giant manta rays and reef manta rays.
Indonesian people rely heavily on single use plastics, especially plastic bags, cups, straws and utensils. Plastic water bottles are also used widely as the water is not safe to drink in many parts of Indonesia.
Unfortunately, Indonesia lacks sufficient land-based waste management to deal with the ever growing waste issue, and making matters worse is that there is a general lack of community awareness and education regarding waste management and pollution. For example, Bali alone produces over 1,000 cubic meters of plastic waste EVERY DAY and only 0.5%, yes, HALF A PERCENT, is recycled or up-cycled.
With this disheartening knowledge in mind, you can imagine my surprise and pure joy when we arrived at Batu Karang Nusa Lembongan Luxury Resort (I know, how wanky... but it was our honeymoon) and our welcome drink not only came in a cup made entirely from coconut shell, but it also came with a straw stamped #IAMNOTPLASTIC.
So, if it's not plastic then what is it?
Introducing Avani Eco.
Realising that Bali, and Indonesia as a whole, had a catastrophic plastic waste issue, Avani Eco was established in 2014 with one mission - replace Indonesia's disposable plastic products with sustainable alternatives in an effort to strive for a cleaner and greener Earth.
Avani brand themselves as a "one-stop-shop solution" for eco-friendly products, ranging from packaging to cutlery, and even compostable rain ponchos!
Avani have thought of it all and they continue to grow their product line. They are currently producing:
- bio-bags made from cassava
- cutlery made from FSC certified wood;
- paper coffee cups (FSC certified) with cornstarch lining and lids;
- FSC certified paper straws;
- cups, straws and cutlery made from cornstarch;
- bio-boxes made from sugarcane pulp which would normally be discarded; and
- the bio-poncho made from corn, soy and sunflower seeds.
And it's all certified fully biodegradable and compostable. Before it gets to that point, many of these produces can be re-used again and again.