The nearly 400 million tonnes of plastic waste produced annually by single-use plastics is one of the most pressing environmental problems our world faces right now. But with how fundamentally ingrained single-use plastics have become in our daily lives, it can be difficult to convince consumers to embrace environmentally-friendly alternatives. Thankfully, the startup erthos has come up with a plant-powered solution that is better for the environment while posing less of a burden to consumers.
As erthos’s co-founder Kritika Tyagi explains, the company has created plant-powered resins that are a much-needed alternative to conventional plastics. “Our resins are biobased and compostable, and they can be integrated effectively with the existing manufacturing infrastructure already used to produce single-use plastics,” Tyagi says. “As a result, it will be easier for industries to embrace this shift toward more environmentally-conscious products.”
Why food-based plastic alternatives are not sustainable
Unlike many other plastic alternatives, those created by erthos are not food-based. While food-based plastic alternatives may seem more eco-friendly than petroleum-based plastics, how they are produced can cause them to have just as much of a negative environmental impact as the very product they are intended to replace.
One of the biggest dangers of food-based plastic alternatives is their strain on the agricultural industry. Making products directly from food sources rather than byproducts means that more food must be farmed to keep up with the increased demand to create these products, as well as the already-existing demand to feed the ever-growing population.
“Food source materials can ultimately lead to the promotion of monoculture farming practices, which can be dangerous for the environment,” Tyagi clarifies. Not only does monoculture farming have devastating effects on the environment by forcing forestry to be cut down to create additional farmland, but it also has consequences on the soil itself. This process can consume all of the soil’s available nutrients, potentially making the land unfit for future farming use.
Diverting these crops to production needs — rather than feeding our population — can also be detrimental to food-based plastic alternatives. However, by using the byproducts of food production, erthos is reducing the amount of waste produced by the agricultural industry. It’s a win-win situation, improving the environment by correcting agricultural practices and reducing the amount of plastic in landfills.
For erthos, it is also pivotal to source their raw materials locally. For one, this reduces the environmental impact that shipping materials across long distances can cause. Shipping raw materials via air or sea transportation consumes massive amounts of fuel, significantly contributing to environmental pollution. Although, perhaps even more critical is that sourcing materials locally ensures that the product will be compatible with the ecosystem once it decomposes.
Holding plastic alternatives to a high standard
As Tyagi tells us, erthos currently has their TUV Biobased certification, as well as their FDA Food Contact compliance, and is obtaining compost certifications from BPI and TUV Austria. Consumers can rest assured that any product made with erthos’ resins is better for the environment than traditional plastic counterparts, and is safe and non-toxic to use.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t stop there for erthos. “Our company has also established its own standard to guide and govern how we source and produce our materials,” adds Tyagi. “The ‘erthos standard’ ensures our raw materials have minimal impact on the environment and are a holistic, comprehensive solution for our industry partners.” This makes erthos stand out as a true alternative to traditional plastics, not just a fleeting gimmick.
What consumers can do to contribute to a zero-waste economy
According to Tyagi, erthos believes that the first step is for brands and manufacturers to embrace these eco-friendly alternatives to traditional plastic packaging, but that does not mean that the responsibility stops there. “Average consumers can lead change by advocating for and educating themselves on what viable solutions can be used to replace the plastics we consume,” says Tyagi.
Consumer awareness of these alternative solutions to plastic is generally lower. Studies have shown that a significant portion of the population wants to live more sustainably, and an even larger amount has expressed some level of concern over our planet’s present environmental situation. Even so, unless these consumers are equipped with the tools and knowledge they need to approach their lifestyle more sustainably, they won’t be able to make that impact.
“At erthos, our motto is to reduce, reuse, recycle, and rethink,” Tyagi asserts. “We urge brands and consumers to reduce consumption and recycle when they can, but also invest in sustainable alternatives if and when possible. As major CPGs and brands continue to explore alternative solutions to single-use plastics, consumers can take the initiative to understand which solutions are viable and truly sustainable enough to make the right changes in our environment.”
The plant-powered plastic alternatives produced by erthos are much safer and healthier for the environment in more ways than one. Understanding why these plastic alternatives are so beneficial to the environment involves understanding how the production of the products we currently use is inherently unsustainable. Doing so is the first step toward building a zero-waste system.