26-year-old man develops an Eco-Friendly alternative to Plastic Straws, courtesy Maharashtra’s Plastic Ban

Mumbai: In June 2018, when the Maharashtra government imposed a ban on single-use plastic items such as straws, spoons, polythene, cups, etc, a 26-year-old man sitting a thousand kilometres away in his house in Chennai wondered how the ban will be implemented in such a huge state. Mayank Jain’s first thought was, ‘how will people drink nariyal paani (coconut water) if plastic straws are banned?’ As the days passed, Mayank’s thought turned into a worry when he read about the struggles of people in Maharashtra to find eco-friendly alternatives. It was during the same time when he heard activists on television debate and discuss about the environmental destruction due to plastic. Fast forward to November, Mayank launched his own company to make steel straws.

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Calling plastic an addiction, Mayank tells NDTV,Plastic has become an addiction. Subconsciously, we have all been aware of the harmful effects of using plastic items and yet we continue using it. One of the main reasons, in my personal experience, is the poor access to plastic alternatives. Since plastic is so cheap and readily available, we do not try other options,

Like everyone, Mayank also knew about plastic pollution and two major events served as a triggering point for him to work towards making a difference. Recalling the two instances, he says,

 few years ago, I was travelling in the Himalayas when I saw how Himalayan rivers were getting polluted due to irresponsible behaviour of the tourists. It was painful to see the scenic beauty of mountain getting polluted by plastics. The plastic ban in Maharashtra was another instance when I realised the dire need to switch to eco-friendly alternatives.

Having done Masters in Business Administration, Mayank had little idea about the manufacturing and production of steel straws but that didn’t deter him to pursue his goal. He approached several vendors and companies in Chennai who were dealing with steel products, particularly steel straws, and studied the process from June to September.

In September, he was ready with his steel straw manufacturing machine that he made from scratch. And thus, began Mayank’s journey to develop his eco-friendly venture ‘Minimo’

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For nearly two months, me and my small team produced dozens of straws until we perfected the art. We didn’t want the straws to be like any other consumer product. We wanted to start a trend where people would start carrying straws around just like their mobile phones. So, we decided to provide the straws in a little jute pouch along with a cleaning brush, says Mayank.

Unlike the regular steel straws, the straw made by Minimo is only seven grams. The price ranges from Rs. 299 to Rs. 699 depending on three of the retail packs. It can be reused for as long as one can and is rust proof. The straws can be used for smoothies, milkshakes, coconut water and other beverages.

To make an impact, Mayank initially approached coconut vendors, fruits vendors, restaurants, cafés and hotels in the city.

People will stop using plastics only when the supply will stop. The habit to use plastic-free straws will develop only when people will see juices owners, eating joints and coconut vendors providing eco-friendly straws. Once there is a shift in people’s behaviour, eco-friendly items will flourish in the market, says Mayank.

In the last three odd months, Mayank has visited several places across the city and faced both, rejections and acceptance from people. While most people cite price and availability as excuses to continue using plastic straws, many people are willing to make the switch. Many cafes and restaurants in the Chennai are now using steel straws made by Mayank. It is only a matter of time before we go plastic-free, believes a hopeful Mayank.

Besides, convincing the city’s eating joints, Mayank is also selling his product on e-commerce websites and so far, he has managed to sell 400 reusable straw packets. He has also supplied straws in zero-waste parties and as gift options. Till, now he has supplanted approximately 10,000 plastic straws with the stainless-steel straws.

Talking about his future plans, he says,

Straws are only one type of single-use plastic item. I wish to develop eco-friendly alternatives to others as well. I am currently working on a prototype to replace bar products like plastic stirrer, picks for martini and coasters with reusable ones.

With a ban on single-use plastic items in Tamil Nadu from when this year, Mayank hopes that it will drive people to look for plastic alternatives like the ones he is working on.

Article Credit: the dispatch

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Innovation could help India out of its health quagmire

Grand Challenges India is fostering innovations that will help people in India and around the world lead better lives.

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Health innovations — from vaccinations to bed nets — have been instrumental in fighting some of world’s most persistent and deadly diseases. Now more than ever, countries around the world are recognising and investing in the potential of innovation to ensure that more people can lead healthy, productive lives.

It’s exciting to see this trend in action in India, which is emerging as a leader in developing tools that improve health care. India introduced the first domestically developed rotavirus vaccine, Rotavac, to curb infant mortality from diarrhoea. The vaccine has the potential to prevent approximately 27,000 deaths and 300,000 hospitalisations in India each year, and it could also play a key role in addressing global supply issues that have placed millions of children at risk. Online logistic management systems such as the Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) are helping to ensure real time information on vaccine stock and cold chain management so that lifesaving vaccines reach the people who need them the most.

By 2030, the government aims to place India among the top three countries globally in science and technology. Investing torealise this vision, the Union Budget increased its allocation in these areas by 7.5% in 2018-19 to Rs 65,741 crore. We applaud these 

investments, which have enormous potential to improve lives in India and abroad, and to strengthen the Indian economy in the process.

One initiative that speaks to the promise of national innovation is Grand Challenges India. With a fundamental belief that great ideas can, and do, come from everywhere, Grand Challenges supports the world’s brightest minds in tackling big problems in health and development. Launched in 2003, its network now includes national-level programmes in more than a dozen countries that have collectively awarded more than $1 billion to innovators from 87 nations.

To support and cultivate India’s vibrant community of innovators, in 2012, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partnered with the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) to launch a national Grand Challenges programme. The aim was to identify and fund the development of bold new ideas and technologies to address human and animal health, food, nutritional and development problems.

Over the last six years, the programme has launched seven challenges, received over 2,000 scientific applications and supported 18 projects. We’ll share just a few exciting examples.

The first is an initiative to inspire better toilets. India’s Reinvent the Toilet challenge asked scientists to come up with sustainable solutions for improved sanitation. Researchers from the Kerala-based company, ERAM Scientific, were among the many who stepped up. They developed India’s first public electronic toilet, 900 of which have now been installed in schools across the country.

Another is 99DOTS, which is helping India reach its ambitious target of being tuberculosis free by 2025. While the disease is curable, treatment is complicated and causes poor adherence to drug regimens. Everwell Health Solutions, based in Bangalore, created 99DOTS to help patients stay on track at a fraction of the cost of other monitoring tools. The system has reached over 80,000 patients and the team is working with the government to expand even further.

Grand Challenges India also tackles connected issues like food security, nutrition and agriculture. Achieving Healthy Growth through Agriculture & Nutrition (AgNu) funds Indian-led pilot projects that aim to reduce low birth weight, early stunting and wasting among Indian infants. Supported by this programme, researchers from Society for Science developed a solar-conduction food-dryer to promote year-round diet diversity, which has been successfully used by 250 women farmers. Plans are now in place for an international scale up involving 1,200 farmer cooperatives in eight countries.

Grand Challenges India recently joined forces with similar initiatives in Brazil and Africa to address antimicrobial resistance, which threatens the effectiveness of drugs that people rely on to treat tuberculosis, malaria and many other illnesses. The programme has also partnered with several Indian government agencies to launch its fourth call to reach more people with lifesaving immunisations through better data.

Innovation requires time and patience, but with partnerships and commitment, the future looks bright. Grand Challenges India is fostering innovations that will help people in India and around the world lead better lives. Innovation has enormous potential for India’s future, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is excited to continue supporting the Indian government and innovation community on the path from idea to impact.

Article Credit: HT



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