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Don’t throw, instead sow and grow

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

Indian companies are embedding seeds into crackers, flags, bombs, Ganesha idols and stationery products for a greener tomorrow.

Saurabh Mehta, Founder and CEO, BioQ at his office.

Imagine sowing a cracker, rakhi, pencil or Ganesha idol in the soil and watching them bloom into plants. As surreal as it sounds, this is possible with seed paper. Several companies are using it to manufacture products. Seed paper can be sown in half an inch of soil and can grow as a plant.

Saurabh Mehta owns one such firm. He was initially working in a sustainable company but in 2018, he returned to Delhi to join his family business, a polythene manufacturing company. Though he was his own boss, he could not connect with his work. That’s how he started looking for eco-friendly alternates for plastic polythene.

He tried to remove and minimise the use of plastic-based stationery in pens and pencils using recycled or waste paper. Though his plan worked, he wasn’t fully satisfied. “I realised that some parts of the products were still being thrown away like used pens and small pencils,” he says.

This led him to further conceptualise the idea of making products that come with an afterlife. That’s how he started embedding seeds into paper to make pens and pencils, calendars, notebooks and rakhis. As a Founder and CEO of BioQ, Saurabh altered from ‘use and throw’ to ‘use and grow’.

BioQ works with 15 varieties of seeds, including basil, tomato, marigold and mustard. These seeds come in the form of capsules, which are pushed inside these pens.

“They work in the same manner as medicines work. They are easy to plant. They get dissolved in the soil within an hour and need only some moisture to bloom them into a plant,” he shares.

BioQ isn’t the only company that believes in minimising waste and reusing it for a sustainable tomorrow. The growing interest of customers towards sustainable products and consciousness have made seed paper a rage.

Garima Capoor Nanda was also looking for eco-friendly wedding cards for her wedding in 2016 but she could not find any attractive alternatives. So, she got the paper customised for her wedding. She got seeds added in cotton scrap paper as it is wood-free. She then circulated these cards with her friends and relatives.

To her surprise, the response she received was overwhelming. This led her to develop the idea of using seeded paper to make other things. Today, her company, Plantables, co-founded with her husband, Sumat Nanda, makes several products using seed paper.

This Agra-based brand specialises in gift kits, mandala colouring books, calendars, notebooks, stationery items and message cards for other brands, among other things. It also sells wedding cards in more than 15 languages.

Like Garima, Roshan Ray was also looking for similar alternatives for wedding cards. But he also wanted to save the dying handmade paper industry. Ray was a handmade paper manufacturer till 2014. He realised that the only way to revive the industry and work towards sustainability was to add seeds to handmade paper.

In November 2014, he founded Seed Paper India. Roshan too used seed paper for wedding cards. But it was in 2016, he says, that seed paper got the recognition it deserved.

“In 2016, when the government came heavily on the plastic bags, seed paper started coming in in India,” he says.

A collection of items offered by Seed Paper India.

Seed Paper India sells a variety of products, such as plantable crackers, flags, seed bombs and seed-embeded Ganesha, besides stationery items. Their plantable crackers are not like usual fireworks.

While explaining the concept, Ray shares, “The best part about these crackers is that they are sown in soil instead of being burnt. We use different seeds for different crackers. For rockets, we put marigold seeds, for hydrogen bombs, we use tomato seeds and for flower pots, we use white daisies.”

The company also manufactures a sustainable alternative on Ganesh Chaturthi. They make seeded Ganeshas. The company also sells seeded flags on Independence and Republic Day. “We use organic water-soluble colours in flags and they are chlorine free,” he shares.

Though companies are trying to maximise the use of seed paper, working on this paper is not everyone’s cup of tea. Garima points out that handling the paper requires finesse.

“Printing on this paper is technical in nature. Seeds need to be small and flat otherwise printing would not be possible. Generally, fruit seeds are bigger. That’s why we don’t use them. We work with marigold, mixed white flower, mixed vegetables chamomile and basil seeds. We also use water soluble colours and ink on the paper so that seeds are not harmed in any way,” she shares.

Though printing may be technical, planting the seeded paper isn’t difficult. Roshan says that these seeds do not require any special attention after they are sown. “You need to tear the paper and soak it overnight for 24-48 hours before planting it in half an inch of soil with water. Within 4-6 weeks, the plant starts to germinate,” he says.

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