What goes around comes around, especially when it comes to plastics. Even a worn-out piece of cloth that we decide to throw, something as simple as a handkerchief, never really go ‘away.’ It all ends up in a landfill.
According to a PwC and Assocham report, landfills are brimming with so much urban waste that by 2050, India is reportedly going to need a landfill that's the size of its capital, New Delhi!
So, to reduce India’s plastic usage, the government announced a ban on single-use plastic last week. The ban has led to an increase in demand for sustainable products.
Cheaper sustainable options
There are a lot of sustainable alternatives to plastic in the market, including cloth, natural fibres, paper, biodegradable cornstarch packaging, etc.
However, unlike a plastic bag that Indian consumers would get for free from their vegetable vendors or retail stores, the cheapest cloth bag costs between ₹10-15.
50 pieces of paper straws are available for ₹68, on other hand, plastic straws could be easily found for ₹25 on e-commerce websites. Almost all sustainable alternatives currently cost a lot more than single-use plastics.
Conglomerates like Parle Agro, Dabur, Amul, and Mother Dairy, among others, are rushing to replace their plastic straws with paper options. As more brands switch from plastic to costlier sustainable alternatives, the added cost will be passed on to the consumers, making the goods we buy more expensive.
“Due to the enormous consumption of plastic, the price points of plastic materials are very much cheaper than the other alternatives. Close to the plastic price point will be cornstarch. However, if the consumption of these alternative materials increases in the market, the prices will automatically reduce,” Kanthi Dutt, co-founder, and CEO of SustainKart, a sustainable e-commerce platform, told Business Insider India.
Sustainable bottles, toothbrushes, and earbuds are selling like hot cakes
SustainKart has witnessed a jump in demand for plastic bottle replacements.
“Compared to May 2021, we are selling double the quantity of steel/copper bottles on SustainKart every month now,” Dutt said.
Younger audiences and pet parents are leading India towards sustainable practices. They are also brushing up their gardening skills in the monsoon season.
“Travel and wellness products such as toothbrushes, earbuds, steel straws, and skincare are high selling. Holistic nutrition and food is the second-largest selling category. Also, we believe that pet parents and young parents think of sustainability more strongly,” said Dutt.
In the last six years, Dutt said, eco-friendly products have witnessed twice the demand in India.
“Consumers have started to realize the impact of single-use plastic after reading about pollution-related news during Covid. The ban on single-use plastic will influence the growth in sales of eco-friendly products,” he said.
The clean and green market is growing massively in India. SustainKart expects sustainable e-commerce to become a big business in India in a few years and is hoping to leverage its first-mover advantage to capture a large share of this market.
“Unlike ever before, we see numerous sustainable, clean, and green DTC (direct-to-consumer) brands launching daily. We believe that the more the brands, the more the awareness and reach, and the easier it would be for us to capture a huge pie of the market size,” said Dutt.
In the last six months, SustainKart has catered to over 1.7 lakh customers. It is drawing close to ₹2 crores as its monthly recurring revenue (MRR). Its last funding round valued SustainKart at $15.5 million. FromVedas, a cleaning solution firm, is an investor in the company.