Worldwide, we use at least one trillion plastic bags every year - that's almost 32,000 bags per second. Often used only once, each bag takes hundreds of years to break down, which means they remain in the environment long after we have finished with them, blighting cities, choking rivers and filling the oceans. In fact, if current levels of plastic use persist, by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the sea than fish.
Thankfully, this is something Kevin Kumala has given some thought to. With a background in biology, medicine and business management, Kumala is the co-founder of Avani, a company that's dedicated to help solve our global plastic-bag problem.
Hailing from Bali, Indonesia, Kumala set up Avani in 2014 to help the island deal with plastic waste, setting a goal to create sustainable, recyclable packaging.
After years of research, the team has created plastic-like bags using cassava, an edible root, also known as yuka, arrowroot or tapioca. The cassava bag is 100 per cent natural, biodegradable, sustainable, compostable and recyclable. Each non-toxic bag will break down into carbon dioxide and water within six months. It even dissolves in water.
Luckily for us, the bag arrived on the UAE's shores in October.
Avani co-founder and chief green officer Kumala explains: "Our bags provide a total solution to bag waste around the globe. Today signifies the next step in our journey and the opportunity to provide a unique solution to supporting a plastic-bag-free UAE."
Peter Avram, a partner in Avani Eco Middle East, adds. "As part of our launch, we will also introduce the full portfolio of Avani eco-friendly products including sugarcane-fibre-based houseware, cornstarch straws, paper and cornstarch coffee cups and wooden cutlery. We have already started to engage with retail, hospitality, hotels and restaurants here to showcase our products and the added value they provide, not only for clients, but also for the end consumer and future sustainability of the UAE."
In the past, much has been made of the semi-biodegradable bag and its solution to our landfill woes. However, it is worth noting the difference. The plant-based Avani bags will reduce to nothing in six months, while the semi-biodegradable ones do not breakdown completely, but instead disintegrate into microscopic pieces, which are still ingested by animals and marina life. Recent studies suggest these minute plastic pieces are also starting to enter the human food chain. For the sake of our own health, and that of the planet, the quicker we stop using plastic the better. And these plant-based bags might just be the perfect solution.