Saving Nature, One Pen at a Time
By Sanuj Hathurusinghe
Research conducted by the Ministry of Environment about a year and a half ago revealed that in Sri Lanka, students from Grade 5 to 13 collectively discard 80 kg of plastic pen material a day. Mind you, this is not the whole pen but just the carbon ink tube in the middle of the pen the ministry was talking about. It is really eye-opening how when things are put in perspective only do we manage to see the gravity of the bigger picture. The serious ramifications a simple, mundane task like discarding a used pen or a toothbrush can collectively have on our environment but the question remains, what are we going to do about it after we have been enlightened? After hearing the daunting statistic some may have regarded it as a normal run-of-the-mill statistic and may have forgotten about it soon after. Some may have pledged to use less plastic and to be more mindful of the ballpoint pen they are using; to at least finish one before buying another. And, then, there are others who think beyond that and feel like it’s their responsibility and obligation to not just limit the usage of plastic but to go that extra mile to come up with sustainable solutions.
Sense of obligation
This is exactly how The Creator – an Eco-Friendly Plantable Pen came into being. Among the many who heard the Ministry of Environment’s alarming statistic was Christina, the daughter of Sugirthan Kumaravel. Being a student at Pushpadana Girls’ College, Kandy, Christina thought that since she was among the sample demographic mentioned in the survey, it was her duty to do something in terms of finding a solution to the problem.
It was this sense of obligation that gave birth to Kumaravel’s eco-pen. Christina’s idea of creating an eco-friendly pen was taken up by Kumaravel and the duo set out to design a pen that could help alleviate the plastic burden on the environment. Being a designer and an artist himself with over 15 years of professional experience, Kumaravel overcame the designing aspect of the eco-pen rather easily but lots of research, reading and looking up had gone into the science behind the pen. “After doing much research we first made a prototype but it too had a lot of areas that could be improved. The pen we are making for the market came after numerous modifications we did to the original prototype,” Kumaravel told Ceylon Today.
Wide reach via
Kumaravel’s eco-pen is made out of a special recycled paper that is 100 per cent biodegradable. It also comes with some seeds inside the paper with which the user can plant the pen after it runs out of ink. These unique and sustainable features of the pen made it most appealing to the masses and resulted in much positive feedback. They first tried the pen out among Christina’s school friends and the response from them and their parents was a positive one.
Encouraged by all the positive replies, they decided to hit social media with the product and as expected, it took little to no time for cyberspace to make the eco-pen reach every part of the country and even beyond. Now, Kumaravel’s phone can hardly get a break as it constantly rings with inquiries and orders. “The eco-pen has already attracted considerable attention. Requests for orders come to us quite regularly now. Since the eco-pen was the idea of my daughter, it is my daughter and a few of her friends who carry out the production. Judging by the popularity and the success we have gathered in this short period of time I’m hopeful and confident that we can popularise this concept in Sri Lanka,” said an optimistic Kumaravel.
Kumaravel has already applied for the Patent and he is hopeful the process will be finalised soon. However, his intention was to develop and reach more masses with his product rather than Patent-protecting his creation. It was one of Christina’s teachers – Pubudu Bandara – who after getting to know about the creation and its potential advised Kumaravel to patent it. “Prof. Sanath Amaratunga of the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya, provided us with all the necessary details for patenting and Eranga Lakmal of Sri Lanka Inventors Commission too was a huge help,” Kumaravel recounted gratefully.
He also mentioned Dr. Indunil Perera to whom he extended his gratitude for inviting him to a doctors’ convention held in Kandy. “Dr. Indunil asked me to come to the convention and deliver a small presentation about my product which became a huge turning point in the journey of the eco-pen. I got a lot of inquiries from lots of reputed personnel in society thanks to that opportunity,” Kumaravel said. Subsequently, the eco-pen caught the eye of the Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera who pledged his support to the invention and even gave Kumaravel and his daughter the opportunity to reveal their product, which so far had been limited to social media platforms-to a broader audience, in the manner of a grand unveiling.
Bigger plans for future
Currently, Kumaravel’s business is a small one operating in Kandy but he and his team have big dreams and plans for the future. He plans to reach the foreign market with his creation and has already garnered some interest from overseas. “Foreign buyers are much interested in products of this nature and in the instance of the eco-pen, the sleek finish has also managed to draw some attention. Inquiries and orders for the eco-pen have already come from countries such as Australia, New Zealand, UK, The Netherlands, and Italy,” Kumaravel said.
About 96 per cent of the pen is made out of biodegradable, eco-friendly material while only about 4 per cent is not. When asked what made him think about producing the pen not using only biodegradable materials Kumaravel said that they had already thought about that and had found a way to do so. “The issue is that if we make the pen 100 per cent biodegradable, the production cost is going to spike drastically and so will the retail price of the pen. The idea is to reach more people with this unique concept and to do that it is vital that the pen is sold at a reasonably cheap and affordable price. At the moment, it is quite affordable by anyone so we will keep it that way until we gain more popularity.”
Kumaravel said the idea of going ‘100 per cent green’ is still in their minds and when the time is right, they will consider enacting it.
(Pix courtesy Sugirthan Kumaravel)