Srija, a 14-year-old girl from Telangana, a city in India’s Gadwal region, is a young environmentalist keen on supporting the natural world in her community. She involved herself in various tree planting efforts taking place in her city and at her school when one day while digging in the dirt to plant a tree, was dismayed to find a plastic bag underground.
According to an interview she had with the local outlet The Better India, she said she “immediately realized that this was from one of the previous sapling planting drives at the school,” adding that she “didn’t want this to continue every year, so [she] started thinking about a sustainable solution for planting seedlings.”
This led her to develop biodegradable planting pots made from discarded peanut shells. With the help of her mentor and math teacher, Srija learned that peanut shells are rich in phosphorus and calcium, retain water well, and decompose gradually. All these factors make peanut shell waste the perfect raw material for a biodegradable pot that also offers nutrients to new plants.
Peanut shells are especially ideal in the Gadwal region, as there are many large peanut plantations located there, and therefore a surplus of wasted shells.
After a couple of attempts, and the addition of a secret ingredient, Srija was able to come up with an eco-friendly, nutrient-boosting pot that would completely degrade in less than 20 days.
Srija presented her idea to T-Works, an Indian company, who approved the concept and offered a plan to manufacture machinery that will help her increase production. She was only able to produce five to six planters a day by hand, but with the support of T-Works, her production capacity will increase significantly.
Her school, Zilla Parishad High School, will be sourcing Srija’s planters for future tree-planting drives and hopes that more schools and organizations will opt for these biodegradable planters to ensure that tree-planting efforts will not be undermined by the generation of plastic waste.