Anusuya had spent most of her childhood, watching the sunrise near the Puri-Konark marine drive in Bhubaneshwar. Since she was 11 years old, she remembers her father explaining the importance of cleanliness to her. Her father, Sanjay Samantaray would also conduct beach cleanup campaigns. Anusuya would always help her father with these cleanups. Her father always made her aware of the hazardous effects of plastic entering the ocean.
With all this constant knowledge right from childhood, she was sure about pursuing Sustainable Development. She pursued a BSc in Sustainable Development from Xavier University in Bhubaneshwar and further went to Belgium to pursue Masters.
Once while talking to her dad about the problems of single-use plastic, they dwelled on the idea of edible cutlery. With an aim of sustainability, she thought of an edible alternative for single-use plastic. At 22 years old, Anusuya came up with the concept of ‘Eco Ware’.
Anusuya decided to participate in the ‘KICK Challenge’, a business plan competition at KU Leuven with a focus on social development. The other two participants along with Anusuya were – Varun Singh(bioscience engineering) and Apoorva Vardhan(science).
Their main focus was a by-product of breweries called ‘spent grain’. This by-product was not only safe to consume but also rich in fiber. They had even seen some local bakeries using the material in the bread or pizza dough!
“Spent grain soon proved to be the ideal resource to produce our cutlery”, explains Varun, “not in the least because by using by-products from the production of beer, our product won’t put any extra strain on the environment.
For the first round, the team submitted a theory paper. They expressed their idea about using brewers’ spent grain to make edible cutlery. They easily cleared out in the first round and were supposed to make a prototype for their idea.
“We approached breweries around our University, spoke to the owners and gathered some spent grain for our project. It was a dough-like, grainy substance that could be moulded easily,” says Anusuya.
They went on experimenting with spent grain, mixing it with various binding agents like flour. Soon they got a firm consistency. They carved out a spoon and baked it in an oven. The trio was awarded the 2021 KICK Challenge Student Award for their innovative design of biodegradable, edible cutlery.
Eco Ware: a bigger business model
The organization provided further help to the trio to put their business idea into something bigger and concrete. For production at a commercial level, there was a use of another binding agent, something that could be sustainable and healthy on a large scale.
Later she got these cutleries made from her father in Odisha, India. He then sent them the prototypes via courier. After experimenting they could conclude that this cutlery would not get soggy for an hour or so.
Under the brand Eco Ware, the next steps were to focus on product development, manufacturing and building further partnerships.
“Since we want to reduce our carbon footprint, we will first focus on producing and distributing our product locally”, adds Anusuya.
They look forward to partnering up with local breweries for their raw material spent grain. As also, sell their Eco Ware cutlery to student cafeterias and university campuses. They already have their cutlery present at local events and local student restaurants like Alma around Leuven.
In a video, Varun Singh jokes, “We want to make our product so good that the only problem that can prevail in the end is simply that a person who brought the edible cutlery, consumes our spoon first even without touching the food.”
Anusuya and her team hope that they can make a sustainable change in the cutlery industry through their product Eco Ware. They further want to experiment more and branch out in different types of cutlery like coasters, cups and others. Their efforts are truly inspiring and can definitely help people reduce waste by discarding the use of single-use plastic.
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