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Stop Using Plastic Bags

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating island of plastic, is estimated to be “five times the size of the continental India.” About 15000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated in India every day; 80% of which are plastic-carry bags. Despite attempts to reduce usage of plastic bags, they are still chosen over paper bags, as they are commercially more viable. EcoAd, a social enterprise working to make India a polythene-free country has come up with a sustainable model aimed to raise awareness about the need to stop using plastic bags and promote #SwitchToPaperBags.

In spite of being banned by the municipalities, a majority of the populace still demand and use plastic bags in day-to-day lives. Campaigning for the plastic bags free country, Rohit Nayak, Co-Founder- EcoAd says, “It is not limited to raising awareness. People won’t listen to you until you provide them a better solution.” EcoAd sells eco-friendly, recycled and recyclable paper-bags at half the price of conventional paper-bags. The bags are handmade from used newspaper and other recycled material. Manufactured through a unique process, they can carry about 10kg and be reused for a month. Based on a decentralised manufacturing model, EcoAd has a low cost supply chain that helps it achieve economy of scales faster. Further, it is selling the ad space on paper bags to subsidize its cost and make it even more attractive for retailers to make a switch. EcoAd’s model is connecting problems from Business, Society and Environment. Retailers and consumers now have an easy-to-adopt way of going green and businesses get more affordable,efficient and eco-conscious direct advertising. With this, women at BoP are getting a regular and reliable source of income and thus, a better living!

The company has so far:

  • Replaced over 700,000 plastic bags with eco-friendly paperbags
  • Employed over 200 women from bottom of pyramid living in slums and villages in and around Pune
  • Provided employment of over 50,000 hours of work for women under BoP
  • 17 businesses have stopped using plastic carry bags completely, and counting

The Beginning

Identified as one of the top 100 social innovators in India, Rohit tells the story of EcoAd “Somewhere in 2009, while travelling by train, I saw kids playing among piles of plastic waste, a toxic and unsafe environment for them. Shocked, I resolved to stop plastic from destroying our eco-system. We had to reduce the consumption of carry bags! S.Shroff, a senior rotary member and paperbag expert helped identify, develop and source the right kind of paperbag. I have been fortunate with partners, advisers, friends and family who helped shape EcoAd.”

Marking Wold Plastic Bag Free Day

While celebrating World Plastic Bag free day on July 4, EcoAd organised an event at Phoenix Market City, Pune. “The initiative was aimed at replacing 10,000 plastic bags with paper bags. We started at 6pm and distributed 10,000 bags till 9:30pm, which might qualify for a world record. Initially, people were reluctant but soon a lot of people started taking interest, started talking to us about the problem and solutions. Hundreds of people pledged to stop using plastic bags,” says Rohit.

“We were overwhelmed by the response we got from the people; from appreciating our efforts, to asking for our bags, and even willing to donate to help our cause! People are aware of the problems of using plastic bags but most do not go further to acknowledge the issue. This is why our initiative met with such a positive response; people were happy that we were trying to bring about a change. With our team of 28+ volunteers and their belief in our cause, we managed to pull off this herculean task.”

Future Plans

“In the next five years we will be distributing over 140 million bags across eight major cities in India, impacting millions of common residents of these cities and preventing 200 tonnes of plastic waste being generated. This will also generate regular employment for women at BoP, earning of $1.8mn will benefit over 3,000 families and over 6,000 children.

“We want EcoAd’s model to be replicated across India. So far, we have been approached by over 200 aspiring social entrepreneurs from all over India, who wish to replicate EcoAd in their town/city. Three of these are already operational with our guidance. To support these leaders, we will create standardized multimedia training-and-development content, which we wish to make available free online! As a parent organisation, we also need to create a strong support system to ensure their business grow and flourish. From a local project, EcoAd is now turning into a national movement!”

Suprita Anupam

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