Bengaluru based green startup is increasing the sustainability quotient of industries like automobile, packaging, logistics and disposables with its sustainable materials.
Man vs. Planet
The advent of the Industrial Revolution, the path taken by industries and human activities since then have led to serious problems, especially for the environment. The products, their design philosophy and processes, disposal, the scale of production and consumption are simply not in-sync with nature. This has led to catastrophic and self-destructing processes imposed on our planet as a result of biodiversity loss and climate change.
The planet will become uninhabitable hell very soon, due to climate crisis. Unless we take immediate corrective steps, this could be well before the end of this century. – UN.
Spectalite, a Bangalore based green-tech company is working towards addressing these issues by striking the right balance between Social, Ecological and Economic impact with their sustainable materials.
The Initial Journey
Spectalite was established in 2015 by Mr Mahadev Chikkanna and Ms Shruthi Ujjani Ramesh with a vision to change how industrial & consumer products are made, used & disposed of. Its journey started with their search for sustainable materials for the automotive sector. They had uncovered the huge demand-supply gap for sustainable materials in developing nations like India.
Having extensive experience in the corporate sector, the sustainability subject was entirely new for them. Thus, they built their expertise from square one, focusing on materials and product development. After systematically understanding various processes and issues and undertaking extensive R&D, Spectalite came up with biocompounds that can cater to the diverse needs of consumers and industries across automotive, houseware, furniture, disposables, restaurants, storage and logistics, packaging, etc.
Spectalite helps companies realise their sustainable goals. It assists companies with new material development, product development and even supports product manufacturing through their partners for customers who need end-to-end service.
Its breakthrough came in 2019, when Renault-Nissan, the largest automotive group in the world started using their biocompound materials in its cars.
Biocompounds Increasing the Sustainability Quotient
Currently, the 20 member team can annually manufacture 1,500 tonnes of biodegradable & recyclable biocompounds at their production plant in Bidadi in Karnataka. They have come up with more than 200 formulations of different grades, suitable for various applications as per the needs of the customers. They are classified under two categories – BioDur & BioPur.
BioDur is biocompound that can be easily recycled after use. They comprise of up to 50% natural fibres and olefin-based binders. They have better thermal & mechanical properties and are lightweight. They can be used in automotive, storage & logistic, furniture, houseware, etc.
BioPur is biocompound that can degrade naturally by microorganisms. With up to 100% bio-based content, they are made with natural fibres & biodegradable binders. They are suitable for applications like packaging, disposables, toys, houseware, etc.
The natural fibres used in the biocompounds come from crop-waste, agro-industrial waste, forest waste and fast-renewables. These are usually discarded or burnt, thus releasing carbon back into the atmosphere and creating pollution. By using these carbon-rich natural biomass wastes into useful products, Spectalite has elevated the sustainability quotient.
Due to the multi-faceted impact and holistic approach, Spectalite has been recognised among the Top 10 Innovative Sustainable Material Provider in the world in an independent survey by StartUs Insights.
Realising the Ecosystem Approach
Spectalite has integrated Blockchain for ensuring traceability of products throughout their life cycle. Read more about Blockchain here.
Circular Bioeconomy includes using fast-renewable biomass for realising circular economy across various products. One of the ways to achieve Closed-loop circular economy is to use the waste generated at a site (eg. Company, factory, farm, etc.) for making utilisable products that create additional value to the same site.
Challenges in the Journey
One of the challenges they are facing is that people compare their biocompounds with plastic. Changing the peoples’ mindsets to shift to sustainable alternatives is difficult as the plastic industry is extremely diversified, pervasive and has realised the economy of scale.
True innovation takes a lot of time and effort. Solutions by Spectalite take longer to materialise, unlike the quickly rushed products by some players that may miss the mark on effective sustainability parameters. Despite being based in India, most of its business is driven by companies based in developed markets or Indian companies that cater to international clients.
It’s an uphill task to make the consumer understand what true sustainability looks like and how it can be realised. Many companies cater to customers’ demand for no plastic, the alternatives for which can at times be unsustainable. For eg., Disposable wooden spoons are usually treated with toxic chemicals and are made by cutting mature trees to have a short shelf life. This results in increased carbon footprint, biodiversity loss and health hazard. Spectalite is transparent about their biocompounds, including the use of plastic in some of its products.
Mahadev believes that stakeholders across the value chain need to have a holistic understanding of sustainability to not fall prey to ‘Greenwashing’.
Utility of Innovation and True Sustainability
Spectalites’ exceptional vision and work are reflected in the fact that most of its business is driven by word of mouth publicity and inbound leads via their website, without much emphasis on marketing and advertising. Stakeholders who have realised the value of its offerings try to do their bit to increase its visibility and integration with industrial production chains.
Mahadev emphasizes that we all need to worry about our existence. Every individual needs to address climate change, which is the top concern the human race faces today. We can do this by making lifestyle choices that help reduce carbon footprint, conserve resources & restore biodiversity. And that requires awareness and accountability at an individual level so that we can separate the signal from the noise that comes from mass media and advertising to make the right choices.
Spectalite believes in constant improvement and continues to invest in R&D to meet the customers’ diverse needs. The teams’ efforts have led them to create a circular bio-economy where they take care of their customers, farmers and the environment.
Thus, truly transformative and seamlessly integrable solutions like Spectalites’ biocompounds require an innovative relook at the existing processes and an ecosystem approach to realise sustainability at scale.
Article by Subhav Duggal, Team ulaunch.