Indian entrepreneur Manigandan Kumarappan shares their journey making award-winning, zero-waste and biodegradable disposable straws from palm leaves.
Finding an alternative to disposable plastic straws is far from straightforward, as many of its reusable or biodegradable alternatives come with their own issues. Metal straws require a lot of energy to produce and, just like plastic, don’t degrade. Equally, paper straws have received heavy backlash from consumers, with many complaining that they dissolve before you have a chance to finish your drink. Not to mention the fact that paper straw production produces 70% more air pollution than plastic. This is where Evlogia comes in.
Entrepreneur Manigandan Kumarappan set up Evlogia with two aims; to provide an alternative to single-use cutlery, while at the same time addressing the issue of agricultural waste being burnt on a mass scale in India. Evlogia makes their straws from fallen palm leaves, using up an agricultural by-product which would otherwise be incinerated. With air pollution becoming an increasingly severe issue across urban areas in India, Evlogia’s production helps to reduce agriculturally generated pollution.
Their Leafy straws received the fastest granted patent in India, taking only seven months. They’re approved by the US FDA, Health Canada and the EU for food contact compliance. So, it may not be too long before we’re all sipping our drinks from palm leaves.
Palm leaves have natural properties which make them easy to convert into organic drinking straws. “the leaves are long and thin and have a good shelf life. The in-built cuticular wax provides a beautiful shine as well as sturdiness” Mani explains.
“Unlike other organic straws like grass and bamboo that are already coming in tubular form, coconut leaves are rolled to form straws and hence we can make them in different sizes. Also, they are lighter to store and transport at the same time they have the strength to pierce carton packs and work as tetra-pak straws”.
Unlike paper straws, Leafy straws stay intact in your drink for hours. They do not contain any nasty chemicals, either. Because they are simply made of palm leaves, they degrade quickly in compost or landfill.
Along with trailblazing on the environmental front, Evlogia work with their local community in Bangalore, by providing jobs to local women. “We started production in January 2019 with three employees, and now our all-women production unit in Bangalore employs fifteen women from poorer backgrounds, and soon we will be expanding across rural coconut growing areas in South India”. In 2018, 11 million jobs were lost in India. 90% of these losses were in rural India, and of these, 80% of these losses were women’s jobs. So, by focusing on generating employment for rural women, Evlogia is making a huge difference to local communities.
The production process is simple. The leaf husk is rolled on a semi-automatic machine, and sealed with a food-grade FDA approved adhesive, similar to how paper straws are made. Evlogia claims that their Leafy straws are the most cost-effective organic drinking straw on the market, costing a maximum of 3 rupees per straw (that’s 0.032p). So while many people and businesses are put off by the higher cost of ecological alternatives, Evlogia is demonstrating that going eco needn’t cost more.
Soon, Evlogia hopes to expand its range to other single-use cutlery items like cups and takeaway container boxes. With their straws already seeing success across the world, we can’t wait to see how their business grows.
About the Author: Annabel Mulliner is WILD’s Managing Editor, and is in her 3rd year of studying English Literature at the University of York.