Waste no more is their mantra

Recycled products by Saahas  

How open would you be to the idea of having a kitchen cabinet made out of juice cartons, a T-shirt made of PET bottles, or packaging wood becoming a part of your room furniture? Turns out, an increasing number of people are up for this.

With focus on ‘swachh’ India and the country’s waste management crisis, there is no better time than now for enterprising individuals and organisations to convert discarded material into something useful, aesthetic and innovative. And with their customer-base constantly expanding, they are no longer bracketed as only an “alternative option”.

Take for example jewellery. Angeline Babu and Rituparna Das said it is the customers that made Silver Nut Tree — the venture that turns plastic bottles and caps into one-of-a-kind jewellery, and glass bottles into home decor. “When we started in 2012, it was just an idea. We were trying to teach our daughters sustainability. But the response we got from people made us realise there is a market in it,” said Ms. Babu. They realised just how open people are to their idea of “any trash is our treasure” when brides-to-be started placing orders for their jewellery with them. “Can you image Indian brides wearing jewellery made out of plastic?” she said.

Home too

uByld, a Bengaluru-based startup, has been making furniture from upcycled wood brought from abroad during export of heavy machinery. So far, close to 3,000 homes in Bengaluru have been furnished with their products, signalling the willingness of people to experiment. “We are acquiring a lot of customers because they want to break from tradition of using teak or rosewood and buy eco-friendly furniture. What we use is European solid pinewood that is used to build cottages abroad. We procure five tonnes of wood that is used as packaging material every month and make handmade furniture at our Thanisandra factory. I am a farmer’s son and I don’t like trees being cut. Through uByld, we are saying ‘at least don’t cut new trees’,” said Pradeep Nair, the owner of uByld, who initially started experimenting with the wood in his house and realised it was weather-proof.

Speaking of homes, Saahas Zero Waste, a well-known name in the city’s waste management space, has been making — through recyclers in Gujarat and Maharashtra — roofing and alternatives to plywood out of used Tetra Pak cartons in partnership with the company through its extended producer responsibility. The same juice boxes have been used as an alternative to plywood adorning kitchen cabinets.

“Tetra Pak cartons are primarily paper, plastic and aluminium, with 75% paper. One option is to extract the paper and use the remaining plastic and aluminium to make polyaluminium sheets for roofing. Without extracting the paper, the carton is shredded into pieces and pressed into composite boards. It can be used wherever plywood is normally used. PET bottles, once melted, are converted into polyester yarns and made into tees, backpacks and other kinds of bags,” said Sunitha Jayaram, manager, recycled products, Saahas Zero Waste.

Swati Sinha, an entrepreneur, has bought furniture made out of recycled wood. Only one thing that prompted her to do so: “I was fed up of plastic and environmental pollution. So I thought of shifting to eco-friendly products. So far, I have bought environment-friendly furniture and find that there is absolutely no difference from the others,” she said.

Pricing, a challenge

Though finding buyers is not the problem for such enterprises, pricing certain products competitively is a challenge. As Ms. Babu explained, though the raw material i.e., waste, is free or cheap, the process and time that goes into creating something out of it require a lot of investment. “Our products are priced much higher. Some pieces cost as much as precious metals. This is because everything is handmade and the resources that go into making these pieces are not cheap,” she said.

But as awareness about these products, and willingness to invest in them grows, makers of these products said there could be an impact on pricing eventually.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 12:10:59 PM |

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