Let’s Bag the Plastic Bags

Cassava starch bags you can buy today to help stop plastic pollution

Whether you are buying coffee, a book or even just a single candy bar, the cashier would most likely be wrapping your purchase in a plastic bag inside another plastic bag. The excessive use of plastic, from takeout containers and utensils to straws and bags, in Vietnam is dangerous on the environment. Since their creation in the 1960s, plastic bags have plagued cities. Despite their supposed usefulness, their proliferation has interfered with the wellbeing of ecosystems and municipal operations. Because they do not biodegrade, plastic bags have immense longevity, taking as long as a millennium to break down in landfills. They can choke animals, and waterborne bags have carried invasive species to new areas. Because animals cannot digest plastic bags, an ingested bag can kill or interfere with their bodies’ functioning.

Some scientists have campaigned to reclassifying plastic as hazardous waste. However, it’s not just scientists who are looking to address the problem. Startups, formed by concerned divers, surfers, hikers, nature lovers and people from all walks of life, are coming up with innovative solutions to solve the plastic pollution.

Oi VietNam Magazine - WAVE - Steven & Malou - Portrait - April 2018 - IMG_3143

“We started WAVE with a single mission: To help the environment by bringing a product that is within everyone’s reach,” say Malou Claessens and Roberto Guzman, founders of WAVE, a company that produces biodegradable bags from cassava roots. The two started the project several years ago, fueled by the mountains of litter they saw in parks, forests and cities on their travels. After extensive research to find alternative plastic sources Malou and Roberto saw similar ideas—bags made from potato starch—and based on that discover they decided to work with cassava starch.


The results from the research backed up many assumptions they already had: Plastic shopping bags are one on the most detrimental types of litter that we have on this planet. They overwhelming quantity of plastic bags contribute to buildups in drainage systems, resulting in blockages. This is especially common in developing nations, where sewage systems are substandard.

“Even plastic bags that are being advertised as bio-degradable are not actually bio-degradable. They break down into micro plastics, which is much worse for the environment. We encourage people to do research on the plastic they are using,” says Malou. Many people who use plastic bags assume that you can throw it into the recycling bin. However, even if the bag has the three-arrow-triangle recyclable symbol it is often used as a marketing ploy. There isn’t actually any regulations surrounding the symbol, resulting in plastic bags being picked up by recycling companies who can’t recycle them and they end up in landfills, where they will sit for hundreds of years.


They worked with scientists and specialists who were experts in the environment and sustainability and the results were WAVE zero plastic truly biodegradable, eco-friendly products. A cassava starch bag that is as strong as plastic takes 90 days to break down and when it does it’s a completely natural substance that is released into the environment. This means that the runoff from the bags is completely safe for animals to consume. The logo that is printed onto the bags (this can be customized for any retailers or hospitality companies who want to become more eco-friendly) is made of food dye alcohol-based (don’t worry, no animals will get drunk off the bags).


The bags from WAVE dissolve in water at around 80 degrees Celsius (but not in rain, your stuff will be safe in monsoon season!) and composts naturally in landfills. Traditional plastic is made from fossil fuel-based materials, which is responsible for roughly eight percent of oil production. This number is only expected to rise, with experts predicting it will be at 20 percent by 2050.

Oi VietNam Magazine - WAVE - Product - April 2018 - IMG_3109

WAVE products are made of 100 percent bio-based polymer compounds, part of a natural closed loop system. This means that when the bags break down, they can safely return to nature in the form of H2O and CO2, which in turn feeds our agriculture, and therefore making them part of a true sustainable lifecycle.


“Whether you are using our bags or another fully sustainable and biodegradable bag, our aim is to educate people on the dangers of plastic. Each individual and corporation that we can get to stop using plastic is a win at the end of the day. It’s why we are doing what we do,” says Roberto.

For more info on WAVE products, visit wave-ecosolutions.com

Images by Vy Lam and WAVE

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