On a mission to find a sustainable alternative and reduce the menace of plastic pollution, Kagzi Bottles, a company based in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, has produced a 100 per cent compostable paper bottle, that claims to be the first-of-its-kind in India.
India generates 3.3 million metric tonnes of plastic waste annually, as per this 2018-19 report.
The idea to find an alternative to single-use plastic first took shape when Samiksha Ganeriwal, the founder of Kagzi Bottles, was working on a college project.
“Back in my college days, I had worked on a project to replace plastic bags and at that time there were no other alternatives. It has always been at the back of my mind to find an alternative to plastic because I have wanted to make a shift in my lifestyle but could not find alternatives. That’s when I decided to start working towards this,” Samiksha shares with The Better India.
However, her dream of creating an alternative to plastic packaging materialised many years later in 2018.
After finishing her MBA from Vignana Jyothi Institute of Management in 2006, she went on to work at various multinational companies in Hyderabad and Noida. In 2016, she set up her own packaging solutions company and it was during this time that she began to explore alternatives to plastic bottles.
In 2018, while working on a project for one of her clients on eco-friendly packaging she decided it was time to set up a company solely focused on creating 100 per cent compostable paper bottles.
With a keen interest in finding an alternative but no educational training in the field, she consulted product designers and scientists to develop the product. Over the next two years, she faced a number of challenges. The first was the lack of awareness about the method of how to create such a product.
“When I started, the biggest challenge was finding the right machinery. It wasn’t possible to just go to the market and buy a machine as this is the first-of-its-kind in India. We had to build the machines from scratch. I had to find the right people to help build them, taking into account the nature of the product,” says Samiksha.
The second challenge was consumer perception of the product. When the first sample of the product was made she went around showing her friends and family.
“They were quite surprised with the shape and colour as it is completely brown and people are so used to [transparent] plastic bottles. Eventually, however, they have come around and are excited about the work we are doing,” says the 38-year-old entrepreneur.
The Government’s blanket ban on single-use plastic items like bags, spoons and cups in 2019, drove Samiksha to the realisation of the urgent need for alternatives.
In December 2020, after more than two years of setting up Kagzi Bottles, the prototype of the bottle was launched which contains no plastic and is 100 per cent compostable.
Samiksha was determined that the name of the company denote how the product was made in India. This is how the company came to be named Kagzi Bottles, ‘Kagzi’ derived from the Hindi word kaagaz meaning paper.
In recent years, large multinational companies like The Coca-Cola Company or L’Oreal have also been working to create paper bottles as sustainability and anti-plastic sentiment rises. However, these bottles have a thin inner layer of plastic to provide a moisture barrier and resistance to other environmental factors, thus making the bottles not entirely free of plastic.
This is where the Kagzi Bottles are unique. The bottles are made using paper waste, which is currently being sourced from a company in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh. This waste paper is then mixed with water and chemicals to break it down and get a mixture called pulp. This is then moulded into the desired shape of two halves of a bottle.
Following this step, the halves are then spray painted with a solution that mimics the water-resistant properties of a banana leaf. Finally, these two halves are then glued together.
“This is the first time that an Indian company has been successful in making such a bottle and we were very proud of the work being done. We wanted to showcase it as an Indian product and for consumers to immediately connect it to its Indian roots,” says Samiksha.
With an initial investment of Rs 12 lakhs, Kagzi is currently producing bottles only for shampoos, conditioners and lotions. These bottles are cheaper than plastic and are priced at Rs 19 to Rs 22. While each bottle at the moment takes two days to make, with more orders they now produce 2 lakh bottles per month.
Samiksha believes that these compostable bottles have the potential to replace plastic as a packaging material in the future.
“One person uses an average of seven plastic bottles per month only for toiletries. Kagzi bottles could be an alternative for all types of packaging not just toiletries but beverages, liquids and powders too,” says Samiksha.
They are working towards creating bottles for food and beverages and plan on setting up manufacturing units in four cities across the country.
Even when it comes to her everyday life, she tries her best to make sustainable product choices like opting for bamboo instead of plastic. As a mother of two young children, she ensures that they know the importance of using sustainable products.
Samiksha signs off with a message for everyone, “We need to get conscious about what we are doing to the environment. I think it is the need of the hour to shift towards more sustainable alternatives even if this means a compromise in style.”