Wanting to put a stop to plastic pollution in the seas and on the beaches, the young Balinese biologist designed 100% biodegradable bags made from cassava starch.
Enough is enough! One day Balinese Kevin Kumala - a diver and surfer -had had enough of all the plastic waste on the seabed and on the beautiful beaches of his island of the Gods. Like all the 17,000 islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago, Bali has experienced strong economic growth, and hand in hand a huge increase in the number of plastic bags found on beaches, thrown into the sea and scattered along roadsides.From cassava to bags and from sugar cane to cups, Kevin Kumala is not short of ideas for reducing the amount of plastic waste damaging the environment.
A biologist by training, the young man looked for solutions and thought about using cassava to replace the plastic in bags. It is inexpensive and is produced widely in Asia. A bag made from cassava starch takes three to six months to completely degrade, versus many years for a standard plastic bag. And cassava starch bags dissolve completely in hot water at 80 degrees.
Unlike other biodegradable alternatives to plastic, no oil is needed to produce it, it is totally sustainable, organic, and not harmful to the environment, humans or animals which can ingest it without it causing problems.
Putting his ideas into action, Kevin Kumala created his company in Bali, Avani Eco and opened a production unit on the nearby island of Java.
Lunch box and eco-ponchos
His company has been producing shopping bags from cassava starch since 2015, but it has also developed "lunch boxes" made from sugar cane, smoothie and salad containers made from corn starch and even eco-ponchos made from soya and sunflower seeds! The young entrepreneur’s militant approach is clearly displayed on the back of all his products – they say "I am not plastic".
Floods of plastic waste
In Indonesia, plastic waste literally floods streams, oceans and roads, causing the death of the many marine and land animals that ingest them. More than ever the archipelago needs aid and initiatives to protect its ecosystem.
It’s an issue that also affects other parts of the world equally determined to find alternatives to plastic. In Madagascar, Gasy Plast imports cassava to make bags. For the time being, it only works locally but has plans to develop its activities in Africa, Asia and Mauritius.
In Cameroon, Jean-Aimé Mbei, a researcher in the University of Yaoundé’s chemistry laboratory is experimenting with a process that combines cassava and kaolinite - the white clay used in the manufacture of porcelain – in the hope of strengthening the structure of the starch which has the disadvantage of softening in cold water and deforming. For cassava based packaging in direct contact with food, tests are carried out to ensure that no liquid or gas passes between the food and its container.
In short, cassava starch may well offer a new impetus to biodegradable packaging – and at the same time provide concrete solutions to the problem of plastic pollution in many parts of the world.
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Main picture: Copyright © 2017 Avani Eco