Forest fires wreak devastation on the climate and living beings alike, and in recent times India has been reeling with the aftermath caused by natural infernos. While in many cases the culprit is careless human behaviour, the pine-infused regions of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand house a natural culprit. In 2020, Himachal and Uttarakhand recorded a total of 1095 fires, a tale as old, perhaps older than Abhinav Talwar’s childhood.
Abhinav Talwar grew up amid Himalayan Flora & Fauna, blackened by forest fires that charred life during the summer season. It was adverse memory of these fires that got Abhinav Talwar to start Vasshin Composites, an environmental engineering company that works towards shielding the natural ecosystem and to help displace plastic from consumer’s everyday lives.
There have been several attempts by many people over the years to utilise these pine needles, but none concrete enough to find a longer-term solution to this menace. The anti-microbial properties of these pine needles further piqued Abhinav’s interest and thus was born a unique variety of table-ware designed around Mother Nature.
The Pinus Roxburghii tree species is highly inflammable and greatly destroys animals and vegetation when it catches fire. Though these Himalayan Pine trees are anti-microbial but also extremely volatile, shedding needles that choke smaller flora and fauna and later leading to a burnout. Forest fires heat soil to a few centimeter depth, causing loss of its water holding capacity, excess nitrification of the soil and disruption of eco-systems and dependent animal communities.
Vasshin Composites educates and uses local resources to curb these fires, particularly higher altitude rural and tribal dwellers. These women and men, walk through this thick carpet of pine-needles which shed heavily between March and June in order to collect them. They are a boon to the forest department and have been named Van Bhagidars or Friends of The Forest. The needles are gathered by hand, gently, as to not disturb the undergrowth. A truck takes them to the nearest railway station from where they traverse to the factory.
The Tableware: The approach for manufacturing these products is a low carbon method where pine needles are mixed with organic and inorganic fillers and that can be used in the injection moulding process for higher production volume. The pine needles are collected in their shedding season depending on the weather.
The primary goal is to reduce the load on carbon sinks; forests and preserve the ecology around it. Pine needles are risky together and catch fire when they aggregate. Vasshin Composites process is circular-sensitive and uses pine needle biomass to proportionately displace the virgin input plastic steam in case of everyday products such as tableware. Moreover, Vasshin’s products address preservation of carbon sinks and reduce carbon capture which can be roughly quantified per product purchase.
Vasshin’s idea was to capture carbon not by first polluting and then cleaning up carbon sources rather they chose to do so via preservation of forests which are the distinguished lungs of nature and globally constitute a massive carbon sink. Vasshin Composites now safely brings to the world, a piece of the Himalaya’s, minus these devastating fires.