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Going plastic-free is easier than you think

On World Environment Day, entrepreneur Peter Avram introduces Avani Eco, a startup providing biodegradable alternatives to plastic

Our mission to replace disposable plastic products that take hundreds or even thousands of years to decompose with renewable resources made from plants.

From plastic straws to cutlery to takeout containers and shopping bags, how often do you stop to think about your consumption of petrol-based plastics? And ever think about how long those products take to decompose?

More and more corporations are taking their social responsibility role seriously, including towards the earth. And this is where startups such as Avani Eco play a vital role.

“Avani uses groundbreaking technology to produce alternatives to plastic products,” explains entrepreneur Peter Avram. “We currently uses three main ingredients to produce our products: Cassava starch for bio-plastics, corn starch as biodegradable and bioactive thermoplastic aliphatic polyester (PLA) and sugarcane residue as a replacement of styrofoam to produce boxes.”

The company’s name is derived from the definition of the word “Avani” itself, which means “earth”. Its innovations come from the earth, are made for the earth, with the aim to protect and sustain the earth.

Avani aims to reduce the accumulated plastics from human activities around the world. For World Environment Day 2018, Avram tells us about his business.

Our mission to replace disposable plastic products that take hundreds or even thousands of years to decompose with renewable resources made from plants.

What is Avani?

Established in 2014 as a Bali-based social enterprise, Avani first aimed to help rehabilitate the island of Bali by offering 100 per cent sustainable disposable packaging solutions and compostable plastic alternatives to combat the concerning condition of Bali’s beaches and sea due to the impact of plastic waste. This inspiration led us to produce bio plastic products that are practical, durable, fully decompose, non-toxic and therefore safe for living organisms.

Our most famous product is the bio-cassava bag, which is 100 per cent natural, biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, certified non-toxic, dissolves in water and is proven to be harmless when consumed by animals.

We launched Avani Middle East in the UAE in late 2017 to provide this revolutionary product range to the region.

Our aim is to continue to educate and drive an agenda for change through building awareness that their are alternatives to replacing plastic and spreading the information across the industry and to the wider public, government, media, and educational institutions. Government and legislation changes will be essential drivers to change and our aim is to explore further conversations at these levels.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

Avani is spearheaded by individuals who strive to be difference makers using technology as solutions to combat the global plastic epidemic. We produce an eco-friendly inimitable bio-cassava bag made from industrial-grade cassava starch and other natural ingredients, as well as a full range of sustainable food packaging and hospitality products made from renewable resources.

Our mission to replace disposable plastic products that take hundreds or even thousands of years to decompose with renewable resources made from plants.

How did you finance your business?

We’ve managed to secure significant interest in our product range as businesses in the UAE look to switch to solutions that reduce single-use plastics waste. We’ve also been working with investors who see a future for sustainable products.

At which point did you have a clearer idea of how you would turn your passion into a business?

Through my extensive experience in the hospitality industry, I became acutely aware of how much waste the industry produces and went in search of a solution for the UAE and wider Middle East. The solution came through a meeting with Kevin Kumala, a co-founder of Avani, to supply Avani products exclusively in the Middle East.

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How difficult was the transition from full-time employment to startup?

I don’t see much of a difference; the hospitality industry is always a busy one and late hours are part of the job description.

What are your biggest challenges?

The main consideration that most of our partners have had is related to cost. However, the cost of biodegradable alternatives has significantly reduced over the past years. While the cost was 20-30 per cent higher than regular petrol-based plastic, this gap has decreased, and production costs for biodegradable items are more economically viable.

If you also count the environmental cost of how long it takes for plastic to disintegrate (thousands and thousands of years) versus Avani products that biodegrade within 180 days, this can only lead to increasing productivity and decreasing their cost to manufacture. This is supported by the fact we already seeing a growing demand for biodegradable products in the UAE, regionally and globally.

What are the advantages to being your own boss?

We are a small team currently in our Dubai office, so we all help each other when needed. Building the business from the ground up and a passion for helping the planet keeps the energy levels going through the daily routine of meetings and entertaining clients. I guess being your own boss is just what you make of it.

What would your advice be to future entrepreneurs?

Always work towards where your passions lie, it becomes easier to translate it into work and it doesn’t feel like something you have to do but becomes a mission you are driven by. There is always going to be the tough days when things don’t work for you; it’s in these situations that you have to believe why you started the journey and look at the long-term goal and keep moving ahead anyway.

Who is one to watch on the startup scene?

Washmen, the laundry service in the UAE has been working on recycling their products and helping the community benefit through this service. It’s always great to see other brands getting involved in educating their customers in being more aware towards Mother Nature and treating our planet with consideration and learning to recycle as much as possible. I think they are doing a great job and definitely a great example for start-ups to follow.

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