Cambodian startup targets cultural change with “I’m a plant” shopping bags

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In Cambodia, entrepreneur Kai Kuramoto has founded Cleanbodia to bring biodegradable, cassava-based plastic bags to the country, one of several in the region at the front lines of the plastics waste crisis.

“Plastic bags are among the biggest sources of littering in the kingdom, so we set out to find a sustainable solution,” Kuramoto tells The Phnom Penh Post. “After researching the types of biodegradable bags we could produce, we decided that a starch-based product was necessary as opposed to a bag with a chemical additive.” Cassava was ultimately chosen because it is widely grown throughout Southeast Asia and can be easily sourced at low cost.

Dubbed “I’m a plant,” the bags are as lightweight and strong as incumbent materials, Kuramoto adds.

“Our biodegradable bags are as strong as regular plastic but they don’t have the chemical feel and smell that plastic often has. They can hold hot or cold liquids, but if stored in wet conditions for a long period, they will start to degrade,” he added. They take about 6 years to fully break down in the environment.

“Eventually, everyone will need to change their habits regarding plastic usage. It’s not sustainable and is already starting to choke our oceans. However, how fast can that change happen depends on a large cultural shift away from mass consumption,” he added.