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Chandhana Sathishkumar: Reducing Reliance on Traditional Plastics

Chandhana Sathishkumar: Reducing Reliance on Traditional Plastics


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Chandhana Sathishkumar, the founder of Bioplastics from Seaweed. Let’s learn what’s happening at Bioplastics from Seaweed and how Chandhana is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Chandhana! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Bioplastics from Seaweed?

Chandhana: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! I think finding the right balance between making a product cheap and therefore economically viable, while also being able to make it the best version (biodegradable, durable, etc.) of itself is challenging at the moment. 

Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?

Chandhana: I grew up in Chennai, India, where the recent spike in consumerism within the past two to three years has led to a steep increase in the amount of plastics used and none disposed of properly. The solutions we hear are often around 'reducing' the use of plastic which is realistically not in today's world. The only plausible solution to this issue seemed like integrating a better waste management system while also replacing the nonbiodegradable material with something that is degradable. Being able to accomplish that very goal of replacing the use of single-use plastics and contributing to creating a waste-free world drives me to keep doing it.

Spiffy: How would you say that your organization is working towards a more equitable world?

Chandhana: My focus on seaweed-derived bioplastics aims to reduce reliance on traditional plastics, offering an eco-friendly alternative that degrades efficiently while minimizing environmental impact. Through this, I hope to make the world more equitable by providing consumers with an affordable green alternative to plastics.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience/community?

Chandhana: Recently I was able to make a prototype of the material from seaweed for less than 1.5 USD for 1.5 square meters of the material. This has been able to show that seaweed has the potential to act as a cheap and natural source to make plastic alternatives.

Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn’t give up. What did you learn from it?

Chandhana: Through the process of trying to get this concept from an idea on paper to a physical prototype, I faced a couple of hurdles. The first one was not being able to get lab space and the second one was trying to make the material without expensive equipment. Eventually, I was able to figure both issues out. The result of learning to 'figure it out' and navigate through unknown obstacles was definitely more valuable.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Chandhana—it’s been an honor!

Chandhana Sathishkumar is an 18-year-old working towards making the future healthier and more sustainable. Her past work involved researching fetal brains at the Indian Institute of Technology as well as publishing a book about neuroscience. Currently, she's working on making degradable plastics from seaweed. (First published on the Ladderworks website on January 16, 2024).

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Daniela Vega. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.