Are you sick of throwing away plastic spoons and forks after every meal on the go? What if you could eat them instead? Soon, this might become a reality thanks to Bakeys, an Indian company on a mission to introduce edible cutlery and reduce plastic waste.
The founder of Bakeys is Narayana Peesapaty, a former researcher with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Patancheru, India. He got the idea for edible cutlery while watching people using khakra, a crispy Indian flatbread, to eat their flight meal. Having experimented with different ingredients and designs, Narayana came up with a recipe for an edible spoon and started Bakeys in 2010 in Hyderabad.
Edible Cutlery – The Formula
Bakey’s edible spoons consist of sorghum flour, rice flour, and wheat flour. They don’t have any preservatives or fat and their moisture level is extremely low – less than 2% of the weight of the spoon. This means they can last up to two years without losing their crispness. The main ingredient, sorghum, is an environmentally friendly crop – it’s easy to grow and uses much less water and nutrients than corn or wheat. These spoons come in several flavors and can even withstand hot liquids, so they can accompany any meal.
Once you’ve finished your meal, you can eat them too – they are a tasty and nutritious snack in their own right. Throwing them away will cause no harm either, as they decompose within several days. Most importantly, however, the energy cost of producing sorghum-based cutlery is about 100 times smaller than its plastic equivalents. After all, replacing plastic is Bakey’s main objective.
In order to seriously compete with plastic and offer an affordable alternative, Bakeys strives to increase their production volumes. With this in mind, they started a campaign on Kickstarter, launched in March 2016, with the goal of $20,000. After one month, they raised $278,874. This amazing result allowed them to set up a new production facility that will manufacture 800,000 edible utensils every day once fully operational. They plan to introduce other edible products soon, including forks, knives, chopsticks and more. Bakeys also hopes to obtain a gluten-free and kosher certificate as well.
Fighting Plastic and Water Depletion
Every year, around 40 billion plastic utensils are discarded in the USA alone and this number is increasing. Only a tiny fraction of them are recycled. The ones we use might seem harmless, but they contain toxic compounds that our bodies partially absorb. The rest ends up in landfills and oceans, further damaging the environment.
Yet plastic is not the only pathology that Bakey’s strives to address. In his researching career, Narayana worked extensively on the groundwater depletion issues in India. The cause of them, he believes, is rice. Each year around 200,000 acres of extra land is used for growing the crop. This is bad news, as rice requires gigantic amounts of water (5000 liters of water for 1 kg of rice). However, this trend could stop if as much as the quarter of the current rice-farmers turned to other crops instead – for example, sorghum!
“Plastic is very cheap, true. But I can make it as cheap,” Peesapaty argues. “I can with volumes, and once I get the volumes, I can go to the farmers directly and start procuring raw material directly from the farmers, in which case my spoons will be as cheap as the plastic spoons.”
New Industry Emerging
Their Kickstarter campaign success was a milestone achievement, bringing them closer to accomplishing their overall goal. As production grows and the costs decrease, we’re likely to see edible cutlery more often. Will the new trend catch on? It’s too early to tell, but the fact that others have started to work on similar solutions (The Edible Spoon Makers or Edibles by Jack) sure makes it more possible.