Tetra packs, plastic bottles, broken chairs and worn out gramophone records — these commonplace discards which most often end up in bins and dumping yards are now being reinvented by new-age entrepreneurs who upcycle, or convert, them into everything from coin purses to clocks.

Once hoardings are taken off the mammoth grids on the road, Bala Darshan, an NGO gets poor women to work on them and create bags, purses and aprons.

K. S. Prasad, Manager of Bala Darshan, which supports NGO Speed Trust, said that they have been upcycling since 2006.

“We started buying used digital hoardings, which most often get trashed, and began turning them into products with utility. These are made by 150 women who live in the slums around the unit,” he said.

These upcycled bags not only reuse discarded banners, but also provide a source of employment to these women, he added. “All of them are trained in tailoring. To make the bags long-lasting, they wash them, and give a lining at the time of stitching.”

Today these products go not only around the country, but are also exported.

Sruti Harihara Subramanian, owner, Goli Soda, a store which promotes upcycled, and eco-friendly products, said they wanted to lead by example. They have used old doors, crates and window grills to display the ingenious products.

“The idea is to make the concept of upcycling popular,” she said. The racks are filled with carry bags made of used IPL banners, pouches made from rice sacks, and frames made of metal discards by organisations and entrepreneurs from around the country.

One of the brands whose products Goli Soda stocks is Bangalore-based Silver Nut Tree, which reuses the most common household discards: plastic bottles.

Angeline Robon and Rituparna Das, who make candle stands, intricate jewellery and coin purses from discarded plastic and glass bottles, said that restaurants, neighbours and friends were more than happy to hand over their used bottles to them.

“Since we started last April, we have reused close to 6,000 bottles. We try to use the bottles entirely, and any part that is not used is sent to other units which need them,” said Angeline. The message, however, was to encourage people to reduce their use of plastic, they added.

It is not just entrepreneurs who do this, though. City-based artist Chitra Mandanna, who has taken to upcycling in her home and her garden, felt that nothing is really useless.

She has made tables using old dining chairs, and decorative masks using oil cans, among many other items. With one disposable container, six disposable plastic spoons, a clock mechanism and pieces of fabric, she said, you can make your own clock.

My Chennai My Right, an inititative by The Hindu

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