Bambrew’s quest to find single-use plastic alternative

Vaibhav Anant of Bambrew tells Aultrin Vijay how the company is working its way to replace single-use plastics with eco-friendly bamboo-, sugarcane- and seaweed-pulp packaging

20 Apr 2022 | By Aultrin Vijay

Anant : What may seem costly today may be nothing when you compare with the cost of the environment

Intrigued by the ill-effects of plastics on the environment, providing alternatives to single-use plastic straws became the primary goal of Bambrew when it was incepted in August 2018.

“I was astonished to know that more than 8 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced, which is non-recyclable and non-biodegradable and also carcinogenic,” says Vaibhav Anant, founder and CEO, Bambrew, a Bengaluru-based sustainable packaging start-up.

Later, the company slowly forayed into the packaging industry. The company now produces bamboo and wood pulp packaging for major brands in India. Bambrew curates a host of eco-friendly products made from bamboo, sugarcane and seaweed. It claims that its products are 100% handmade, reusable and the perfect natural substitute for plastic. The reason? They are lightweight, durable and also fully biodegradable. Plus, they use no chemicals or pesticides in their production.

In the process, the company also uplifts local communities. The products are made by various tribes from across the country and are 100% handmade. Today, the company caters to various sectors such as eCommerce, food and beverage, food takeaway, FMCG, tableware, and pharma.

“We use pulp from bamboo and wood, which are FSC-certified. We are also now thinking of using hemp as a raw material as it is the fastest growing plant apart from bamboo,” says Anant.

He says that Bambrew manufactures its own raw material in India working with different mills. However, some of the raw materials such as bamboo pulp are imported.

“Our proprietary coating is also developed indigenously and is a trade secret of ours. Our coating, when applied onto the paper, gives it plastic-like properties, but are biodegradable,” he adds.

 Vaibhav Anant, founder and CEO, Bambrew

According to Anant, the company uses specialised machines to manufacture multiple products, some of which are manufactured in-house and some at partner level.

“The idea of creating an alternative was to make it affordable, scalable and maintain the quality parameters. Our vision is to eradicate plastic in a sustainable way,” says Anant, adding that the packaging industry contributes to more than 55% of the plastic waste generated across the globe, which can neither be recycled nor be decomposed.

With more than 174 manufacturing partners along with its own facility in Bengaluru, which is capable of producing more than 75 million mailer bags every month, Bambrew converts more than 50,000 tonnes of sustainable alternates, which in pieces is more than 100 million a month.

What is so special about Bamboo?
Apart from being the best substitute for endangered rainforest hardwoods that we are so accustomed to using, it is also a quick-growing and versatile forest product, outwitting all other tree species. It grows faster than any other plant, produces 35% more oxygen than hardwood trees, but most importantly, helps fight global climate change. Basically, bamboo is one of the most planet-friendly substances in existence, according to Bambrew.

Collaboration with eCommerce giants
In August 2021, the centre announced the ban on most single-use plastics by July 2022 as part of its efforts to reduce pollution, a baby step to mitigate the environmental impact.

Many large brands are now focusing on sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic packaging owing to the government pressure and customer demands. Bambrew encashed this opportunity. This is evident once we take a look at its impressive kitty of big-league clients across diverse industries. This includes Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Nykaa, Big Basket, Supr Daily, Aditya Birla, Puma, Magic Pin, Zepto, Bewakoof, Tata 1mg and 27 other companies and start-ups.

The company is also planning to expand. Recently, Bambrew raised a pre-Series-A funding of USD 2.35 million from Blue Ashva Capital and Sunpack Industries. It also saw investments from Mumbai Angels and other angel investors.

The infusion of funds will be used to build a platform for sourcing green packaging, increase the supply capacity, expand in multiple cities, invest in research and development of new sustainable materials, and further strengthen the team.

“We have a strong team of 30 colleagues and each one of them brings various relevant experiences on board. We are looking to increase it to 100 before end of this financial year,” Anant says, adding, “We have been able to scale our operations manifold over the past few years and take great pride in our collaboration with the largest eCommerce player in the world as well as other major players in this space.”

Cost of being sustainable
Plastic was and is a wonder material due to its effective barrier properties, flexibility and low production costs. However, it has its downsides. And to replace such a material is not an easy task. The alternatives available today either lack in barrier properties or cost more than plastic.

But Anant says that cost is just a perspective. “What may seem costly today may be nothing when you compare with the cost of the environment,” he adds.

“However, our products are almost at par with the current packaging products being used by consumers. The shift is inevitable as there is a strong mandate on non-usage of plastic and also increasing the thickness of plastic. This is the most tangible alternate present today and we all have innovative minds. Maybe in future we could further bring the cost down or come up with any other alternative,” Anant explains.

New alternatives in the horizon
Bambrew is currently working on replacement of certain FMCG and cosmetics packaging. One of them is plastic coated mono cartons used in FMCG packaging, such as outer boxes of toothpaste and many such products. For this, Anant revealed that the company is working with Colgate Palmolive. Another area is the plastic tubes used in cosmetics or in toothpaste or elsewhere.

Anant says, “We are overwhelmed by the responses we have got from the industry. The larger brands are more proactively taking the step in moving away from plastic. We are looking to have our IPO launched by 2027, fingers crossed.”

Rapidfire with Vaibhav Anant

  • One packaging design that inspired you: Pulpac's paper bottle
  • Your favourite book: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • One idea that you think would’ve transformed the packaging industry: Thinking sustainably
  • How do you unwind? Never have to. I’m in love with the work. Would not miss this for the world.
  • One standout product of Bambrew: Reinforced paper mailer bags