How to Stop Stuffing our Landfills - The Avani Interview


If you have ever participated in a beach clean up, there are a few particular items that stand in discomforting quantities: plastic bottles, shoes and sandals, beer bottles, food ware and cutlery, styrofoam and a mind blowing amount of straws.

In Bali, it's no different. In fact, with limited waste management support, it's probably worst.

Avani is an eco-friendly business developed to stand up against the increasing amount of waste appearing everywhere on Indonesia's most popular island. They've created a line of products that are biodegradable. These includes bags, take away food containers, straws, wood cutlery, compostable cups (learn more about that problem here) and even rain ponchos. Basically, they're attacking several of the worst designed one-time-use items and they are making them safe for humans, animals and the environment.

Instead of creating waste, they're creating food for microorganismes.

Below, you'll find our interview with founder Kevin Kumala. But first, this small demonstrative video of Kevin basically drinking one of Avani's plastic bags.

The bags look and feel like plastic but they are made from cassava starch.
 

Where does the name Avani come from?

The meaning of Avani in Sanskrit is Earth. We believe what comes from Earth needs to go back to Earth. [Editor's note: Sanskrit is the ancient language of Hinduism] 

How do you like your coffee in the morning?

I enjoy a bold long black for the long day ahead.

What is your favorite place in Bali and why? 

Umalas. Just out from the hustle and bustle of Seminyak but still close enough to all of my favorite restaurants. No traffic. Just paddy fields. Oh, and of course that’s where I live.

Avani started by selling eco-ponchos for protection against the rain. Why did you decide to expand into disposable food ware? 

After the monsoon season ended in March 2015, we underestimated the seasonality nature of our product. We originally thought that our export market would be strong enough to cover our overhead; little did we know it was not even close. At that particular time, using the spirit of nimbleness while at the same time sticking to our core belief of replacing disposable plastic products, Avani pivoted and began to place its focus on disposable tableware.

By pivoting this way, we were able to “relocate” ourselves into a star industry (coined by Management Guru, Richard Koch) – becoming a company serving a niche segment of the industry that is growing more than 10% annually. Everyone here knows that the Hotel, Restaurant and Cafe (HORECA) industry in Bali is growing at a much, much higher rate than 10%.

Why focus on disposable plastic products? We pinpointed the irony in the fact that these disposable plastic products are only used for around 30 minutes but are potentially damaging our Mother Nature for over 30 years. They are the main culprit behind the current plastic epidemic that we are facing.

Biodegradable plastic bags. Sustainability level 99.

How do you feel about Bali’s current state in regards to waste management?

Terrible. 3,500 tons of plastic disposed daily, only 1,000 tons go to landfills and less than 5% gets recycled!

The government needs to be real and fork out the allocated budget and stick to the roadmap that they had created.

Why aren’t more companies and restaurants using plant-based products instead of plastic? Is it more expensive?

I think it primarily lies in the notion of awareness.

They’re not aware that we are out there. For the first two years, our startup company had placed its main focus on product development and making sure that we could deliver the highest quality product to our customers. While maximizing our focus on product development, we purposely let orders come in organically. However, at the turn of 2016 we felt that we had completely formed out our portfolio of products and 2017 is definitely the year we will roll out through the most effective marketing channels to build this awareness.

Secondly, the notion of “green” has turned off some of the HORECA establishments who are extremely focused on their bottom line and are unwilling to pay an extra cent for the sustainability of our island (and nation). However, slowly this has no longer become a key issue. Our end customers (who at the same time have become our evangelists) have been putting much pressure on these establishments who have yet to “convert”. It’s truly a blessing to have our customers become our own ambassadors! At the end of the day, word of mouth is the most effective type marketing.

Who inspires you and why?

Figures who push the boundaries of the impossible to the possible really inspire me. Elon Musk, Muhammad Yunus, Tim Ferris, Russell Westbrook are my biggest inspirations. 

I see myself as a status-quo challenger; someone who constantly questions why things are done the way it is done. 

If you could tell the readers to take one action in their lives to help create a healthier environment, what would it be?

One “small” action can have a HUGE impact. Never underestimate a single action that you can do as a person in reducing plastic waste. A mind blowing figure to throw out is that with current population of Indonesia (sitting at approx. 255 million people) and the fact that 1 piece of plastic straw is about 20 cm long and assuming that each person goes through 1 plastic straw a day - we are disposing approximately 5,000 km length of plastic EVERY SINGLE DAY. That distance is approximately equivalent from Bali to Sydney! Use 1 less plastic straw a day and tell your friends to do the same. It’s all going to add up to something MASSIVE.

Thank you so much for doing this. Where can people learn more about you?

Reach us out at www.avanieco.com

Instagram @avanieco

Or drop us a line at info@avanieco.com

Finally, a disposable coffee cup I can endorse.

 


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