Astu Eco makes elegant and delightful eco-friendly tableware that can solve the plastic problem that the environment faces
Our last interaction in the Environment Day series was with Astu Eco, an eco-alternative for plastics startup in Bangalore. They believe in not only creating eco-friendly tableware & food packaging as alternates to single-use plastics but also advocating for the ban of single-use plastics through their initiative of home videos called Eco BEAT on the Astu Eco YouTube channel. The purpose of this organization is to provide eco-friendly alternatives to plastics while raising an awareness of how to do away with them in the first place
We spoke to them to know more about the brand and how they are making a difference to the environment.
[BV]: How and When was Astu Eco conceptualized?
Our Founders Anitha Shankar and Tejshree Madhu, both Bangaloreans, having traveled and worked in different industries across the globe, were appalled at the garbage menace in their favorite city Bangalore. They wanted to ‘do’ something that would directly and positively impact this issue. They brainstormed and researched various options for more than a year before settling on to providing alternatives for single-use plastic that were eco-friendly. Thus was born Astu Eco, a flagship brand of Astu Ventures in February 2017.
Here’s what they have to say “We, at Astu Eco, also realized that what we were tackling was a mindset and not just a product variation and entry into the market. Hence we also do a lot of awareness in terms of advocating against the use of single-use plastics and suggest ways in which it could be avoided or controlled. We mainly speak about the ill-effects of single-use plastic and how is it possible to switch back in time when plastic was hardly a norm. We currently run them as a series of home videos, “Eco BEAT” on the Astu Eco YouTube channel.
So going back to our products, we experimented with six to eight different materials, before honing on to our four main product lines – Areca Sheath Products, Coco shell cups paper/ steel straws and Wooden Cutlery.”
[BV]: How is Astu Eco different from similar products in the market?
Astu Eco differentiates itself from other players in the marketplace through:
- Look and Feel (Elegant designs, smooth edges, No breaks or bends)
- High-quality food grade products (No Fungus, No dust & in-depth quality checks)
- Consistent availability
- Nationwide availability (shipped to remote locations as well)
- Unique 100% naturally compostable packaging for orders within India
Here are some of the features of Astu Eco’s areca sheath products:
- Adaptable for all kinds of food – Hot, Cold, Dry & Semi gravies without compromising the sturdiness of the product
- Refrigerable, Microwavable, and Freezable
Astu Eco not only manufactures areca sheath products but also trades in paper straws, steel straws & wooden cutlery.
Tejshree and Anitha personally ensure the quality of their products are of the highest level. Each and every product is used making 100% earth friendly raw material thus making them completely sustainable.
The products manufactured by Astu Eco are made out of areca sheath which are a naturally sourced raw material, ones that do not require any additional chemicals for it to decompose. You will barely find a product as good as ours with competitive pricing available in the market today.
[BV]: Tell us more about the process that is followed. How do you ensure that your products are eco-friendly even after disposal?
Areca Sheath Products are a total delight. The life cycle of the product is such that no trees are taken down or harmed in the making of this tableware, they are 100% natural, 100% naturally compostable (not like the PLA and Oxo-degradable plastic which we see in the market now – They are not earth friendly nor is our country ready for its segregation and disposal, although they claim they are compostable. They require special industrial composting units which are singularly missing in India). But coming back to Areca sheath products; the sheaths form the base of an areca frond in the tree. When the fronds finish their duty on the tree, they naturally fall off. Then the sheaths are collected, segregated, stored and machine pressed into beautiful designs. These products come from agricultural waste which also generates extra income for farmers. And since there is nothing mixed or processed with these products and they are just a part of a tree, they naturally decompose and become either manure or fodder, with no extra additives to make them compostable.
For supplies within India, Astu Eco assures its customers of zero plastic packaging. We are a company that believes in reducing our plastic footprint, so we package our products in paper covers. You will not even see a cello tape in our packaging; instead, we use paper gum tape. And so we are probably the only company that is 100% compostable from product to packaging.
[BV]: Can you give us some facts and figure that how Astu Eco has impacted the environment?
Our aim is to create a measurable impact on the shift from single-use plastics to Earth-friendly alternatives. In the one year that we have been; here are our initiatives and impacts.
Astu Eco has impacted customers directly through its products sold through:
- Organic retail outlets in and around Bangalore,
- F&B fine-dines it caters to
- Direct sales made on Amazon.in
- Re-sellers who buy in bulk from us
- Event organizers that cater to eco-friendly events & weddings
- Corporate canteens
- Eco-friendly events/carnivals
We also want to indirectly impact many people through:
- Campaigns on seed bombs instead of firecrackers, in collaboration with the Karnataka Forest Department
- Eco BEAT awareness video series
- “Happy Earth” infographic with every product sold
- Selfie contest with every party pack sold
- Tree selfie standee with the messaging “ We said NO to plastic”
- Awareness talks in various forums like CWE, India Bioplastics summit & Yourstory
- Astu Eco’s Social Media channels on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest & YouTube
In the very first year of Astu Eco’s existence, it has touched over 2 Lakh+ people through direct channels & about 50,000 people through indirect channels!
[BV]: Have you collaborated with other partners to streamline your processes?
To run a completely eco-friendly set-up, many cogs in the wheel have to run together.
Backward integration partners:
- Farmers for our raw materials
- Holding agents for safekeeping of raw materials
- Logistics partner for timely dispatch of raw materials
- Vendors for our packaging needs
- Contract manufacturing tie-ups to meet exceeding demand
Forward integration partners:
- Logistics partner to ensure delivery of goods to our customers on time in the best condition
- Freight forwarders for exports
Cross promotion partners:
- Other environmentally conscious companies that are working on impacting the same eco-system like Daily Dump ( www.dailydump.org), The Happy Turtle ( www.thehappyturtle.in) etc.
- We are also in talks to organize a clean-city campaign with one of the prominent Radio channels of Bangalore in the coming months.
- People, organizations & Journals that have a strong brand presence across India are reaching out to us to promote our products through their channels.
[BV]: What are some of the major challenges that you face and how did you overcome them?
Plastics have been introduced to the world for barely 60 years now and the habit of using them has become so entrenched in our societies that changing the mindset is the first and foremost challenge that we have faced so far. Also, competing with a product as cheaply available and as readily used is a huge problem for us. We believe that people genuinely do not know about the alternatives which are available to plastic. Also, those who are aware, do not necessarily make the effort to make a behavioral shift. Getting the population to realize the catastrophe that awaits us if we continue using plastics and simultaneously providing them with an alternative which can fill the needs of a plastic product becomes essential in this case.
Astu Eco’s social media channels are focused on bringing people’s awareness to the perils of single-use plastic & the eco-friendly alternates available for them. Our posts get quite a bit of engagement & re-posts through which we are hoping to address this particular problem. We also run our YouTube channel which is dedicated to bring awareness & help people reduce their plastic footprint by doing simple things that are under their control.
Another problem that we face is the seasonality of the raw material. During the rainy season, the raw material generated is unusable for our quality of products.
We have overcome that problem by having tie-ups withholding agents to stock up our raw materials well in advance so we could use them through the lean season & tide over it.
[BV]: What are the future plans for Astu Eco? Are you planning to expand in other fields as well?
Astu Eco is actively working on other products that can replace common single-use plastic items. Some products are in R & D phase while one of the products is patent pending. Astu Eco has a heavy focus on R&D and innovation to ensure the best of products can make a far-reaching impact on our customers & help significantly reduce our plastic footprint on this planet.
Astu Eco’s target is to impact 100 Crore people by 2027 through awareness & by providing excellent quality alternates to single-use plastics.
Check out how Astu Eco operates and how they are impacting the environment
We appreciate and applaud their endeavor which is helping us as well with options to save the environment and ensuring we move to a cleaner Earth with every single step.