The world has a plastic cutlery problem.
In the U.S., 40 billion utensils per year are thrown out after just one use; in India, it’s 120 billion. Non-biodegradable, for the most part, they clog up landfills and perpetuate a mindset of disposability.
But what if utensils, like functional digestive biscuits, could just be eaten as part of a meal?
That’s what Narayana Peesapaty thought. A groundwater researcher and agriculture consultant based in Hyderabad, India, he’d grown frustrated with seeing mounds of plastic wares pile up in his country’s landfills, so he founded Bakeys to create the next frontier of sustainability: edible cutlery.
Since 2011, Bakeys has manufactured over 1.5 million edible spoons made from rice, wheat, and millet in eight different flavors: sugar, ginger-cinnamon, ginger-garlic, celery, black pepper, cumin, mint-ginger, and carrot-beetroot. Left in its packaging, a Bakeys spoon lasts up to three years; exposed to the elements, Peesapaty says the spoons will decompose in four to five days, “or be eaten by other animals, similarly to another biscuit.” In contrast, it takes the average plastic bottle 450 years to break down.
Judging by the company’s Kickstarter numbers—more than seven times the $20,000 goal has been raised with two weeks left to go—the world is ready to embark on what Peesapaty calls “a cutlery revolution.” So ready, Mashable reports, that company representatives have taken to Facebook to ask supporters to curb their enthusiasm for the time being, until the company can meet the growing demand.
The crowdsourced funds will support the manufacture of 3 million spoons and, eventually, chopsticks and forks. Peesapaty also has his eye on setting up an international distribution system and reducing production costs. In the Bakeys promotional video, he describes his hope that increasing the company’s output will motivate farmers to focus their efforts on growing millet over rice, which requires 60 times the amount of water to cultivate.
The need to curtail plastic use is nothing new. Cities from Los Angeles to Kathmandu have banned plastic bags; biodegradable utensils and algae-based water bottles exist, too. But still, plastic production keeps churning. Forbes notes that 311 million tons of plastic were produced in 2014, up from 15 million in 1964—and adds that “the number is expected to triple by 2050, unless some sort of radical change takes place.”
Bakeys spoons are on track to be the first mass-produced edible utensils in history; maybe this crunchy cutlery is part of the radical change that needs to happen. All that remains to be seen is if they’re as delicious as Peesapaty claims.
Utensils, $10 for 100 at Kickstarter.