Cassava Plastic Bag, A New Solution to Reduce Pollution
As the jewel of Indonesian archipelago, there’s no doubt that Bali is a huge magnet for tourist magnet. But the curse of plastic pollution is an undeniable threat disfigured by trash-strewn shores and sprawling landfill sites. The crisis inspired Kevin Kumala, a local surfer and entrepreneur to find a novel solution for this problem.
"I was with a friend sitting outside a bar and we were seeing hundreds of motorcyclists wearing vinyl ponchos," he recalls. "It clicked that these disgusting, toxic ponchos would be used a few times and then discarded, but they would not decompose."
Kumala who is a Biology graduate resolved to create a better plastic that would leave no trace. The co-founder of Avani Eco has developed a cassava-based bioplastic that is biodegradable and compostable. It took the shape of cassava, a cheap and common root that is easy to find across Indonesia. Kumala and his partner studies the emerging field of bioplastic and took inspiration from new materials based on corn and soy starch. They devised their own recipe using cassava starch, vegetable oil, and organic resins.
The result of their innovation was amazing. With 100% bio-based material, the cassava plastic bag breaking down over a period of months on land or at sea, or instantly in hot water. Kumala claims that the bioplastic leaves no trace of toxic residue, as he shows it by dissolving it and drinking it on his video.
"I wanted to show this bioplastic would be so harmless to sea animals that a human could drink it," he says. "I wasn't nervous because it passed an oral toxicity test." Kumala estimates that Avani plastic bags are around twice the price, although some products such as ponchos can be cheaper than vinyl rivals. "We want to do this on a bigger scale but it depends who gets on the bus," says Kumala.
He launched a company in 2014, by selling cassava-plastic ponchos. Today, his company, Avani Eco produces four tons of material that is used for products including plastic bags, food packaging, and covers for hospital beds. With his company, Kumala aims to promote the using of bioplastic bag in defeating the conventional plastic which has so many impacts to the nature.