Celebrated author Charles Dickens once said, “It was the best of the times, it was the worst of the times”. But for me, the see-saw is inclined slightly more towards the latter. This Earth Day (Aprill 22), as we proudly celebrate the supposed 4.5 billionth birthday of Mother Earth, it seems that we will soon have to say goodbye to her, owing to rapid climate change, and the extravagant and irresponsible usage of limited resources that we have been bestowed upon by nature. The ice cover in Greenland is melting at the fastest rate ever. If you ask me whether we at least have 10 years to live, I am sorry to disappoint you, but at this point, even 10 months could be an exaggeration!
There are two sides to a coin, and that is true in this context as well. It’s not that we don’t have solutions to this problem. We do have solutions, but the real challenge is implementation. It’s not that a simple ban on using single-use plastic, or fining people who do not take the responsibility of controlling pollution would solve all our difficulties. Plastic usage might have been declared a criminal offence, but it won’t be an arduous task to find polythene bags in households, all thanks to the black market and people’s general lack of awareness.
• Lack of awareness
If we ask a common person for their views on the acute problem that the Earth is currently facing, most of the people, barring a few exceptions, would reply that there is a problem, but they would have no idea about the gravity or the intensity of the problem. So, obviously, when you have no idea about the repercussions and the extent of damage that can be caused by a certain problem, you would not be concerned enough to solve it.
• Lack of Substitute
When I say that there is a lack of substitute of plastic, it doesn’t mean that there are no substitutes being developed or invented in India; however, there is a lack of substitutes in the market. The idiom “necessity is the mother of all inventions” holds true in the current scenario. There are so many start-ups in the contemporary scene that solely address the sustainable development goals of the United Nation, yet we don’t find enough sustainable products at the consumer level. As a matter of fact, there are many incredible examples of passionate people who have left no stone unturned to help with the development of the society, and the growth of the world.
Here I would like to mention a few of the greatest inventions and start-ups that are committed to make the world a better place to live in:
We know that smoke is one of the main contributors to degradation of air quality. Emission of smoke is nearly inevitable in most vehicles, machines and industries. It gives birth to a diverse category of ailments and respiratory diseases. The property of changing colours of light-coloured fabrics can be very well utilised to produce beautiful art and inks.
“Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value.” – R. Buckminster Fuller (American engineer, architect, and futurist)
Amidst all the hustle bustle, two contemporary start-ups have grabbed a lot of attention. They have gone way beyond seeing smoke as just a nuisance, and have successfully created mind-boggling products out of it!
• Graviky Labs
A Bengaluru-based start-up was established after three years of research on how to purify and recycle carbon soot from vehicles into ink, oil-based paints and spray paints. This technology helps in capturing carbon soot emitted from vehicles. The soot thus collected undergoes a vigorous process of refining and purification to get rid of carcinogens and other pollutants, leaving behind paint and ink residue. Air ink pen is a product developed by the company that contains ink made from 30–40 minutes of car pollution.
• Chakr Innovation
A group of IIT Delhi students teamed up to find a sustainable solution to increasing levels of air degradation. Their hard work paid off when they finally came up with their start-up, the Chakr Innovations, to tackle air pollution in their own unique way. Prima facie, the goal of this start-up is to improve the quality of air. They have developed an emission control device with diesel generators, which have the capacity of trapping approximately 90% of the particulate matter emissions released from the exhaust of diesel generators.
The captured particulate matter is used as a raw material for producing ink and paints. The device can be attached to the exhaust of the generators without causing any damage to it. This technology works on very less energy and can produce approximately 30 litres of ink using this device.
• Envigreen Biotech India private Ltd
Plastics have become inevitable in current times. It takes thousands of years to decompose plastic, and if they enter into the food chain, they can lead to high toxicity in living beings. Its safe disposal has become one of the burning problems for all nations. Envigreen Biotech India Private Ltd is a company that produces a 100% biodegradable substitute for plastic covers. They manufacture eco-friendly covers that exactly mimic the texture and other properties of a plastic cover.
Envigreen covers are made from organic materials such as starch, vegetable oil derivatives and waste. These covers have gone through the hot water test, burning test, hot iron test, edible test and strength test. It has been tested and certified by regulatory agencies. These covers take 180 days to degrade and are 100% organic; even the coloured prints on them are organic. The best part about Envigreen covers is that they are not at all toxic, and can be ingested by animals without fear. This property can help reduce the number of animal deaths caused by plastic ingestion.
• Durable Pot-Hole Free Road
Rajagopalan Vasudevan, popularly known as the ‘Plastic Man of India’, has received several accolades for his unprecedented contribution for devising a method of converting plastic waste into venerable road material. In the words of Mr Vasudevan,
“To lay one kilometre of road, you need one tonne of plastic. This translates to 10 lakh plastic carry bags. Today, India has 41 lakh km of road, and we do not have enough plastic to convert all of them into plastic roads. So, we should not have any problem in disposing off plastics in the future using this technology.”
It also cut downs the effective cost of building roads as it requires a very small amount of bitumen.
Start-ups like these are multi-potent and can be pivotal in bringing the pollution level down in India, although their importance persists in every part of the world. As a matter of fact, Chakr Innovation has won accolades from Manchester Institute of Technology and the United Nations for its brain child. The irony is that these start-ups have a long journey ahead before they actually make it big in India. If the government wants to make up for its decisions like the imposition of the GST and demonetisation and take note of the acute environmental crisis in hand, they might want to implement ideas such as those mentioned above. Moreover, these ideas could even turn out to be a game changer in taking India out of the running as one of the most polluted countries in the world.
Featured image provided by the author.