Author – Arushi Gupta
There is no doubt that plastic table ware such as spoons, bowls, and plates are harmful to the environment when they are disposed after use. However, have you ever wondered if disposable cutlery could be harmful to your health? Shockingly they are, particularly the ones made from plastic. Plastic polymers are made of many chemical compounds that are toxic and carcinogenic and can leech into food. Studies claim polymer products we use in our canteens and consist of polystyrene that discharge a volatile chemical known as styrene that increases the risk of cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia.
Narayana Peesapati was working as a scientist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Hyderabad. He was really concerned about the harmful effects of plastics not only to the environment but to human health. Narayana, who has been to several manufacturing units of plastic cutlery in the country, has observed that the way in which it is manufactured is not very safe for use with food. He always pondered of alternative eco-friendly options that can replace plastic cutlery and came up with this unique idea of edible cutlery.
Narayana struck this idea when he was travelling in a flight from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad when he saw a passenger using a Gujarati khakra as a spoon to eat a dessert. So he established his own startup named Bakey’s to produce edible cutlery. Bakey’s edible cutlery is made of rice, ajwain, wheat, jowar, black pepper and is made in different shapes and sizes. The spoons and chopsticks do not get soggy if placed in water and food. They only soften after some time (10-15 minutes), and thus can be eaten easily at the end of the meal. Even if discarded, they decompose within five to six days, if not eaten by insects or rodents.
In today’s highly competitive market, hygiene has become the first casualty of cost efficiency. The process of cleaning the cutlery by manufacturing units in India involves just a rag of cloth being used to wipe the final products that came out of the mould in which molten plastic was injected. In spite of such a huge consumption of plastic spoons, they are nowhere to be seen in the same numbers after disposal. This was because they are being reused, which makes plastic cutlery a source of bacterial contamination as well.
While working at ICRISAT, Hyderabad, Narayana concluded that producing less rice and more dryland crops such as jowar and ragi would help stabilize the levels of groundwater in rural India. After realizing this, he started thinking about creating a huge market for jowar, which is one of the main reasons why jowar is the chief ingredients in edible cutlery. Being a new concept, working on the idea was a challenge initially, as there was no established technology. Everything had to be developed with learning and research.
Based out of Hyderabad, Bakey’s manufacturing unit is an all-women enterprise, which Narayana’s wife, who is currently working as a director in the company, will soon be taking over. For Bakey’s, the biggest challenge is to create awareness about the harmful health effects of plastic. The use of plastic is also a behavioural issue Other than selling the cutlery directly from their website; Bakey’s also sets up stalls at places like organic bazaars and exhibition.
Currently Bakey’s is selling three products: Savoury Spoons, Sweet Spoons and Plain Spoons of 150mm size for INR300 for 100 spoons. They are planning to introduce chopsticks, soup spoons, forks and even dessert spoons soon.
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