Shyam Sunder,Co-founder and CEO, Cleanlabel

Shyam Sunder Cofounder & CEO, Cleanlabel

Bengaluru-based startup Cleanlabel came up with innovative way for zero waste living, the firm delivers organic essentials in reusable packaging that is collected, sterilized and reused, making healthy eating and zero-waste the new, clean standard.

Cleanlabel allows groceries to reach consumers without any plastic, making it easy to go waste-free.

We reached out to Shyam Sunder Cofounder & CEO, Cleanlabel to know about the idea, expansion plan , current scenario and more, here is the excerpt-

Please share with our readers about Cleanlabel, the Idea behind the name and its formation, and how you plan to address environmental issues with it.

Good products are overpriced. Plastic packaging generates massive material and economic waste. Brands are out of touch with the reality of emerging consumer values, selling what worked in the past.

We wanted to change that.

With Cleanlabel, our members get healthy, organic & clean essentials in durable & reusable containers for a small deposit, instead of single-use plastics. After use, they simply swap the empties with the new products to eliminate plastic & other waste.

Think about it like a ‘Dabbawala Returnable System’ for Groceries.

At a basic level, ‘Cleanlabel’ is a movement that demands for transparency. In a broader sense, it means products that are wholesome, free from pesticides & toxins and have no artificial-synthetic chemicals.

Given our values are quality, transparency and sustainability, it’s fitting that we chose ‘Cleanlabel’ as a name for our brand.

How much emphasis is being placed on reusability?

Our entire movement is based on ‘Reusability’. So much so that we made it our mission to inspire a million families to adopt the ‘reuse revolution’.

A single-use plastic packaging that is used 4 minutes at home, takes 400 years to decompose in nature.

Why would we make something that we’re going to use for a few minutes out of a material that’s basically going to last forever, and you’re just going to throw it away?

Which is why we’ve spent time and resources developing reusable product packaging and technology to tackle the single-use plastic crisis head-on.

We use packaging materials like steel containers, glass bottles, organic cotton bags, recycled materials, natural choirs etc. We aim to reuse them at least 100 times, before the end of their life.

All of them are sustainable materials that cause no harm to the planet. By using them, we dramatically lower the environmental impact and prevent plastics from reaching the landfills.

What is this membership subscription, how does it work? What is the subscription charge and how can one subscribe to it?

Presently, customers can buy our products, with & without a membership.

However members can avail some deposit-free containers, which is not an option for non-members. Besides, for non-members, we charge a small cleaning & handling fee for the containers.

Our membership is priced at 499 for 6 months membership, they get a 100% cash back based on the purchase and return pattern.

It’s a full value membership.

Presently, given our captivity & demand, we are only taking limited memberships on our website.

Cleanlabel is currently available in Bengaluru, when do you plan to make it available across the country? Is there any specific challenge to it?

Our approach is to become better, before becoming bigger. However, we have plans to reach Hyderabad & Chennai by the next year. Subsequently, we will expand to all other metros too.

Cleanlabel’s shop-drop-swap system allows customers to shop from its range of wholesome essentials, in durable and sustainable packaging like glass, steel and organic cotton. How do you make sure that this glass container reaches safely to customers? What if they are broken during delivery or exchange?

We use reusable secondary packaging materials like coirs to protect the packaging, instead of bubble wraps. Coir is derived from coconut waste and they are lightweight. They give a cushion effect to reduce friction & breakages during transit.

So far, we never had an incident. But we are constantly looking out for new ways of protecting our assets and making it battle-ready for rough handling.

As the containers are reusable ones, how do you make sure that they are clean and safe to carry edibles?

We take our cleaning processes very seriously.

While the process is slightly different for different packaging types, we broadly use a three step process for hygienic cleaning: 1) We use high-speed water spray to remove the stains 2) Soak it in bubble net soap water and scrub each piece 3) Boil for 10 to 15 minutes and leave to dry in a clean environment.

What are the advantages of a zero waste lifestyle?

More than asking ‘what’, our focus should be on ‘why’.

The most popular material like plastic, comes from crude oil, which is a limited natural resource. If we consume this limited resource at such an alarming rate, It’s predicted that our earth will have less than 50 years worth of oil reserves.

We, as people, have a choice to prevent that from happening by simply adopting renewable sources & reusable methods.

Nature does not have waste. Waste is a human phenomenon. Zero-waste lifestyle simply means no waste. The lifestyle mimics how nature is formed.

The benefits are both environmental and personal.

From an environmental point of view, the trash can be diverted from reaching the landfill thus keeping the carbon footprint in check.

The personal benefit is that we save money. We want products and not packaging.

Every time we buy a product, we are paying anywhere between ₹ 1 to 7 for a single-use plastic wrapper or a plastic bottle. A normal household buys about 50 products a month amounting to ₹ 3500 /year for plastic waste. We – as consumers – fund the plastic waste and pay the cost, literally.

Do you follow the zero waste lifestyle? What was the hardest thing for you during your transformation to the zero waste lifestyle?

Absolutely, we try and follow a zero-waste lifestyle. And anybody can do it too. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about small changes in our journey.

Instead of a thousand people doing it perfectly, we need a billion people doing imperfectly.

The hardest thing is to help my six year old son to understand the impact of chocolates that get wrapped in single-use plastics. But now he gets it.

According to UNEP, around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year…these plastic chip bags, plastic bottles, wrappers of chocolate and cookies are polluting our air , water and soil… what can be done to stop it ?

Unfortunately, our system is designed for mindless consumption and creating trash.

While companies like us are doing our bit, we urge our consumers to just buy what matters. Buy less and make it last.

Finally, do you think there is a fault in our education system that generation after generation has not been able to understand the impact of plastics on our environment or is it that we all are addicted to this non-biodegradable environmentally hazardous substance?

I think it’s a system problem rather than education. An Indian in India would litter, but an Indian in Singapore will never litter – Their system, punishes those behaviours.

While there is growing awareness of living life consciously, the system also needs to facilitated in this direction.