Could this Indonesian invention solve a world’s cosmetic bag problem?

The creator of Bali’s biodegradable cassava starch bags says they have had “enquiries from roughly any nation on earth”, though some doubt a viability of large-scale production

This essay was published in a July​ edition of Southeast Asia Globe magazine. For full access, subscribe here. 

It was a stormy afternoon in Bali and Kevin Kumala was sitting on a patio of a bar examination a tide of drivers pass by in disposable cosmetic ponchos. Once a sleet let up, many of a ponchos would be thrown divided and eventually finish adult possibly in a plateau of cosmetic dotting a island or floating in a ocean.

After a decade in a US, a biologist had returned in 2009 to his local Bali to find a thespian change: once-beautiful beaches that were lonesome in trash, most of that would eventually finish adult during sea. An estimated 3.2m tonnes of cosmetic soiled Indonesian waters in 2010 according to investigate by a University of Georgia’s Jenna Jamback, that was published in a biography Science in 2015. That figure placed it second in a universe usually to China.

“When we went surfing or diving [it] was not a pleasure for me – we found cosmetic in any place we went in Bali and that became something that undone me,” Kumala pronounced of what had been favourite pastimes.

So a scientist got to work on a solution. Believing that it was “too late to change a habits” and get people to possibly use rebate or recycle more, he focused his efforts on anticipating a deputy for cosmetic bags done from petroleum, that can take adult to 300 years to biodegrade.

Kumala found what he was looking for in cassava, a plant abounding in Indonesia – about 25.2m tonnes are grown there any year. Using cassava starch, he replicated a routine that would be used to make bags from petroleum, even regulating a same collection – a blow moulding machine, a slicing appurtenance and a sealing machine.

Various products done by Avani Eco

“Obviously, to emanate a bioplastic, we have to be really clever with a cost in sequence to make it economical,” he said, observant that supply of cassava grown in Indonesia still outpaced demand. The cost of any bag is 5 cents, some-more than twice what a normal cosmetic bag would cost – though there’s some-more during interest than a evident cost.

Bags done from cassava starch can be converted to compost in rebate than 100 days, as opposite to hundreds of years, and disintegrate within mins in prohibited H2O with no verbal toxicity. A video of Kumala celebration a bag dissolved in H2O went viral online.

“What we wanted to uncover is that it can be eaten by animals and becomes food for them if they incidentally finish adult during sea,” he said. It’s a form of product that he thinks can find support if people buy into combating vast environmental issues.

In 2014, Kumala and his partner Daniel Rosenqvist started a association Avani Eco, opening a categorical bureau on a island of Java, where they furnish ponchos, cosmetic bags and other disposable products, such as food containers done from sugarine shaft or celebration straws done from corn starch.

The world’s oceans are drowning in plastics, and during a stream rate of expenditure a weight of sea cosmetic will transcend all fish on a universe by 2050.

Southeast Asia is among a tip contributors to a problem. According to a news by US-based Ocean Conservancy published in Sep 2015, some-more than half of land-based plastic-waste steam originates in usually 5 countries: China, Indonesia, a Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Nicholas Mallos, executive of a Trash Free Seas programme during a conservancy, pronounced this is “an unintended outcome of fast development”. As with consumers a universe over, with rising incomes people have adopted an ardour for products that come in bags, bottles and other cosmetic packaging.

Indonesia, like a Philippines, has a vast seashore by trait of being an archipelago with thousands of islands. This means that vast portions of a race live along vital waterways or tighten to a ocean. “When cosmetic rubbish escapes from their households or in movement to collection points or dumpsites, a odds of it entering a H2O is really high,” Mallos said.

Indonesian workers transparent adult piles of rubbish brought in by clever waves on Kuta beach, Bali, Indonesia, 18 Mar 2016. Photo: EPA/Made Nagi

Compounding a problem in Bali are a tourists who group to a island, boosting a economy though also withdrawal behind tonnes of rubbish and melancholy a really healthy beauty that has done it one of a world’s tip destinations. Of a 15 million people who transport to Indonesia any year, 40% revisit a island.

Kumala’s electioneer opposite cosmetic comes during an well-suited moment. The Balinese supervision announced that a island will be giveaway of cosmetic bags in 2018 amid vigour combined by a amicable initiative`Bye Bye Plastic Bags’ led by a sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen, who are 16 and 14 years old, respectively.

“Bali, island of gods – a immature paradise. Or, a bliss lost. Bali, island of garbage,” Melati pronounced in a TED Talk a sisters gave in Feb final year that has now been noticed some-more than 5 million times. “In Bali, we beget 680 cubic metres of cosmetic rubbish a day,” pronounced Isabel. “That’s about a 14-storey building, and when it comes to cosmetic bags, rebate than 5% gets recycled.”

Over a march of 6 months in 2016, a supervision tested a effects of charging business additional for cosmetic bags in 23 civic centres in Bali, including a capital, Denpasar. The immature campaigners guess that in some places “the diminution of cosmetic bags was as most as 40%”.

And while Avani Eco operates on a grounds that mass poise change is unlikely, some see it as a usually solution. Anchalee Pipattanawattanakul, oceans supporter for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, pronounced alternatives to cosmetic such as cassava “can minister to addressing cosmetic wickedness problems”.


However, a plant-based cosmetic “may lift another shocking emanate that has to do with a disastrous impact a prolongation has on a environment”, she said. For example, if plant-based plastics turn commercialised on a vast scale, “tremendous amounts of resources such as land, H2O and appetite will be compulsory for [the] prolongation process, and this could subsequently strive an inauspicious outcome on a food production”.

In her opinion, a cosmetic problem needs to be addressed during a base – overconsumption and a throwaway economy. Pipattanawattanakul pronounced efforts should go toward formulating a “closed-loop element economy”, whereby materials are reused rather than thrown divided and transposed by new products, “and change people’s mindset around expenditure to inspire rebate in cosmetic use in a initial place”.

Still, Avani Eco is prepared to enhance a exports and efforts. It is now in discussions with Dufry, a tradesman that operates about 2,200 duty-free and duty-paid shops. Right now, a bags are in use during Bali’s Dufry stores only, though negotiations are ongoing to offer a bags in their stores in Southeast Asia.

“We are vocalization to a few intensity partners in vital areas to set adult corner ventures or to give them disdainful placement rights,” Rosenqvist said. “In 2018 we will continue with some-more concentration on general expansion. We have inquiries from roughly any nation on earth.”

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