By Vilimaina Naqelevuki, Fiji Times – 8 March 2020
STAR Printery director Sandeep Chauhan says the idea of creating paper-based products originated from his children.
He said they became very self-conscious about the use of plastic-based straws and began suggesting the creation of paper-based products after witnessing the impact of plastics and other non-biodegradable products on the environment.
“They began looking at the idea about two to three years ago,” he said.
Mr Chauhan said the company’s first venture into paper-based products faced a few challenges.
“The only difficulty they had was with paper straws because they had the thin one at that time and you could not use it to drink thick shakes or milkshakes because those ones were quite flimsy.”
He explained the business had the advantage of a fully-fledged printery already set up for paper-based products.
“We could print for special purposes like wedding anniversaries or 50th birthdays quite easily.
“If people wanted those specific things — resorts and corporates — we already had the ability to do that.”
Mr Chauhan said they began working on how to produce paper-based products in 2018.
“So for us we had that added advantage already and we started doing a bit of work in terms of how we could make paper bags and things and now, ever so slowly, the market’s catching up to it.”
He said despite the slow start to businesses catching on to paper-based products, Star Printery was committed to it in the long term.
Mr Chauhan said like any other shift to a new product, the change from plastics to paper-based products would take time for people to adapt to.
“Production has been slow I will be honest, let’s take styrofoam for example — that is still around. “We can’t compete at the pricing that styrofoam is sold at.
“That is why the mindset and habits of the people need to change because what we find is, when it’s banned we hope that there will be a lot more uptake of the products that we have.”
He said the main reason people preferred using plastic-based products was because it was cheaper, however, the consequences of using plastics were now affecting the environment.
“When you compare the cost of styrofoam against the cost of paper-based products, it’s the same as many years ago when milk used to come in a glass bottle.
“Switching to plastics or other packaging items was done because of cost but look at the damage we have done now.
“Look at the mess it’s created.
“If you look at that and the cost, Government and the country has to pick up, the cost will be a lot more than just paying the right price for doing the right thing.”
Mr Chauhan said the onus was on every citizen to be more responsible.
“A lot of people are now realising that and waking up to the fact.
“They are saying ‘well OK, we have gone down the path where plastic bags were cheaper but then look at the environmental hazard, the damage it has done to the oceans and our livelihood and the menace it has created.”
Mr Chauhan, however said the change from plastic to paper-based products should not be forced.
“Why should people change habits or lifestyle just because it will be compulsory?
“I think the mindset of the people needs to change and be more aware of what are the people doing and then start practising it.
“It’s no different to taking a plastic bag and then reusing it over and over again so you don’t need to take a new plastic bag every week when you go to the supermarket.”
He added consumers needed to adopt environmentally-friendly practices by trying out a number of paper-based items available on the market.
“As of now paper cups in three different sizes, paper plates in about four different sizes, we’ve got French fries boxes, burger boxes , a food tray, takeaway boxes, paper straws and obviously paper bags.”