Craste moves closer to sustainability targets with wood free packaging

Shubham Singh who is the CEO of Craste, speaks to Disha Chakraborty of WhatPackaging? about how India is moving towards sustainability in the packaging industry.

19 Dec 2022 | By Disha Chakraborty

Shubham Singh sheds light on 100% recyclable packaging for Corona beer

Disha Chakraborty (DC): Why India and why one more startup now?  
Shubham Singh (SS): India is one of the fastest economies and home to start-up ecosystems worldwide. 

DC: What is your sustainability mission?
SS: As a part of its growth, India is also a major player in sustainability with a goal of becoming a net zero economy by 2070. Interestingly, with a single-use plastic ban, focus on green-tech, grants, and research support for sustainability-led startups, India is becoming an attractive player for start-ups in this sector.  

DC: In what way?
SS:
India has an abundance of untapped potential and one of which is crop residue. India produces 500 mn tons of crop residue each year but unfortunately 90 million tons is being burnt as stubble waste, causing a severe air pollution crisis especially in North India.

DC: Noted. How does all this impact Craste?
SS:
India currently imports timber to meet its wood-based products demand causing a heavy financial burden and constant shortage of raw material. At Craste, we use crop stubble (thus, reducing crop burning) as an alternative to timber (thus, saving trees and providing a solution for raw material shortage) to make paper and moulded packaging as well as India’s first tree and formaldehyde (a cancer causing chemical usually present in timber) free highly moisture resistant Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) engineered wood.

DC: What warranted the creation of Craste?  
SS:
I pursued my Master's in Advanced Chemical Engineering from Imperial College London. I became a Social Innovation Immersion Programme Fellow under Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), department of Biotechnology, Government of India. Craste was a brainchild and after finishing the course, I dived deeper into understanding the problems of crop waste management, the problem of air pollution resulting from crop burning, and associated issues like plastic waste and deforestation, which are vital to solve the grand challenge of climate change.

DC: How so?
SS:
We incorporated Craste in 2018 along with my co-founder Dr. Himansha Singh, who is a PhD in pharmacology from The University of Cambridge, UK. We focused on scientific intervention for these environmental issues to create value-added products which can readily become a part of people’s daily lives and help in combating climate change. And so, alongside sustainable products, one of the key factors in establishing Craste was adoption and introduction of green manufacturing and circular economy principles in conventional industry of pulp and paper. 

DC: What are Craste's plans for rolling out products and services in India?  
SS:
We are currently at the beginning of commercialisation. Recently we developed the world's first 100% barley six-pack beer boxes for AbinBev India. We have similar projects in the pipeline, where we offer R&D services to customers to develop circular packaging either from their waste or from their desired raw materials. We also have set up our first manufacturing facility in Madhya Pradesh where we will validate our green manufacturing and produce goods at scale. This facility will produce pulp for packaging solutions and E0 engineered green boards for furniture and construction applications. 

DC: What is Craste's USP in packaging and in what does it bring to the market?  
SS:
Craste packaging is sustainable, innovative, circular, and futuristic in nature. It introduces crop stubble as a new raw material, which is currently being burnt, as an alternative to timber. By putting this waste to work, our packaging is combating deforestation, providing an alternative to plastic, giving farmers an additional income for the crop residue and incentivising them to not burn it thus, combating air pollution.     

DC: How does this translate into your packaging?
SS:
In addition, our packaging is high-grade, customisable, 100% compostable, recyclable, food- grade, less carbon intensive (62.5% less carbon footprint) and economical (48.9% cheaper than virgin pulp). 

DC: How sustainable is Craste's packaging?  
SS:
Our philosophy and idea of sustainability is that sustainability should be holistic and pragmatic. If we talk about sustainability, we need to ensure that we are performing well on all three pillars- environment, social, economical. On the environmental side, our core target is to stop crop burning, save trees and provide an alternative to plastic pollution. On the social side, we adopt fair-trade practices and help farmers earn additional income for their waste. We have already collaborated with farmers in MP and developed a network with Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and UP. 

DC: Describe our model?
SS:
Our model is to set up multiple pulping facilities near farmlands, further reducing carbon footprint. Our pulping plant works on zero waste with minimal thermal and chemical consumption making our manufacturing novel and unique in this industry. Global demand for packaging and furniture is leading to a shortage in timber as well as sudden rise in prices around the world. Countries like India depend on importing timber which leads to more price pressures on consumers. We are providing tree-free solutions which are economical and important from our country’s fiscal trade point of view.   

DC: Describe your sustainability commitment? 
SS:
Sustainability is at the heart of what we do at Craste. We are looking for sustainability from a life cycle angle. If we look at the life cycle of our business model, we have bold sustainability commitments: 1. Procuring ‘x’ amount of waste in the next three years and preventing ‘y’ amount of carbon emissions. 2. Creating a network of ‘z’ farmers and providing economic opportunities to them. 

From a manufacturing point of view, we want our processes to be efficient, less energy intensive, zero disposal waste facility. We also think about how our customers are going to use our products, and we have incorporated our own ambitious sustainable design principles including minimum packaging, lightweight packaging, disposal considerations and ensuring our products are truly safe for our environment.  

DC: Is India ready to embrace and practice sustainability on a regular basis? 
SS:
India always had a culture of reuse, repurpose, and recycle. We have seen “Raddiwale”, as children. Banana leaves, leaf bowls or “Drona” and earthen pots, “Kulhads” are commonly used. But overtime, it has seen a huge decline and with the introduction of heavy plastic packaging, unorganised waste disposal and treatment, lack of awareness towards proper waste segregation, etc. has led to a severe problem of waste management.

DC: How can we remedy this situation?
SS:
It is pivotal to create a lot more awareness. But it will take some time so it is essential that our daily lives have sustainable products to reduce the burden of waste in our society. When commonly used items like packaging become sustainable, it creates a massive impact. There are many products in the market now and yet the adoption is limited. 

DC: Why?
SS:
One of the major reasons is affordability. Sustainability should be offered to people as a basic need and for that, we all must work together.

Six-pack Corona beer retail box


DC: How has the market response been until now?  
SS:
So far, we have received a very good response from the market. Especially from the MNCs who have ambitious sustainability goals. They have approached us to rethink their packaging and scripting new sustainable journeys. We have collaborated with various prominent clients like AB inBev (beer manufacturer Corona beer) with whom we developed a six-pack Corona pack made out of barley waste. Also we are in advanced talks with big companies who have signed the Ellen McArthur Pact to go plastic-free by 2025 with their packaging. When big companies adopt a sustainable way, it helps in introducing sustainable products in our daily lives at a far larger scale. Also we hope to collaborate with upcoming start-ups to upcycle their waste. One such project was done with PadCare, where we upcycled their sanitary pads waste and created printable paper. 

DC: What is next in the Craste pipeline?  
SS:
One of our core focus areas at Craste is our investment in R&D. Since our incorporation in 2018, we have achieved groundbreaking results in our research for both packaging and manufacturing to be more sustainable. Our pipeline includes exciting collaborations with companies to reduce plastic burden from packaging and in the coming months. Also, we will be launching an innovative range of products for our home customers.  

DC: Your message to the industry 
SS:
Necessity is the mother of all inventions. The clock is ticking where it becomes necessary to innovate in the conventional field of packaging and with scientific intervention, we can reduce the burden of our waste on our planet. This shouldn’t be restricted merely to sustainable products but should extend to sustainable methods of manufacturing so as to combat climate change at root levels.  

Latest Poll

Which is the sustainable packaging product among MSMEs that is most popular?

Results

Which is the sustainable packaging product among MSMEs that is most popular?

Bagasse and biodegradable boxes

 

33.33%

Corrugated boxes

 

33.33%

Paper bags

 

33.33%

Recyclable plastic (bubble wraps, bio-plastic)

 

0%

Total Votes : 3

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