There are many entrepreneurs who turn around products made out of non-biodegradable plastics and scraps that would have otherwise remained in landfills for ages.
Of course, many steps are required for the waste to make its journey from the garbage dump to a swanky store’s window display.
This transformation is possible due to the efforts of some environmentally conscious and savvy businesspersons who saw the opportunity in this niche market.
Adding value to a product that has no value at all is called up cycling.
We have heard of recycling of plastics and junk and also about down cycling but the latest trends are all about up cycling.
Recycling is a much broader term that encompasses both up cycling and down cycling. Down cycling is recycling an existing product to make the same product out of it, which is of lower value and quality.
Anita and Shalabh Ahuja and Vimlendu Jha have gone ahead and established up cycling ventures as social enterprises, thus helping the rag-pickers and economically deprived people.
Creating art out of scrap was shown by Nekchand years ago in Chandigarh. Today these four entrepreneurs have made profitable business out of it, helping in spreading environment conservation too.
1 Rejuvenating junk: Radhika and Madhvi Khaitan of WorkshopQ in Jaipur make chic products from discarded acrylic, aluminium, wood, tyre tubes, vinyl records, compact discs, jute, cork, wood fibre, industrial felt, cables, wires and similar stuff.
At the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Los Angeles, the sisters were encouraged to create stunning designs by reusing and recycling discarded materials.
Back in India they found people were not aware of up cycling, they used their creativity and MBA degrees to set up a profitable venture WorkshopQ.
Their motto is to reuse, design, and create because scrap needs a quirky makeover. The products are priced between Rs 50 and Rs 7,000. Rope lamps, vinyl record clock, wine cork coaster or brush hooks sell the most.
Initially, they faced the mindset of people who did not want to pay for scrap. The sisters explain to customers that products made from scrap follow a process and there is cost involved.
They retail products in several stores in all major Indian cities and also through online stores.
2 Ragtag initiative A Delhi couple, Anita and Shalabh Ahuja, has been teaming up with rag-pickers who supply plastic waste to them, which is turned into stylish bags, footwear, belts and other accessories and sold at boutiques in Europe.
The rag-pickers do a yeoman service by collecting plastics and scrap from garbage or handling them to give shape to some chic stuff.
Initially the couple thought of washing, drying and pressing the plastic sheets into cheap night shelters for pavement dwellers.
When the finished product resembled chic leather, a designer friend made some handbags that appealed to fashionable customers.
The bags found a ready market in Europe and the Ahujas were able to create employment for over 600 rag-pickers, paying them a minimum of Rs 5,200 per month.
With a modern factory, some rag-pickers have been trained as factory workers. They are getting even up to Rs 16,000 per month.
The profit generated by this venture is ploughed back for the welfare of rag-pickers through their NGO Conserve India. They are into advocacy to give legitimacy to the work of 150,000 rag-pickers in Delhi and give them some stability.
Shunned by people as scavengers and with no support from the Government, they live as outcasts. The 100 per cent export-oriented venture is highly profitable but the couple runs it as a social enterprise.
Their aim is to up cycle plastics from garbage, reduce landfills and help the rag-pickers through health and education initiatives.
3 Green the Gap: Vimlendu Jha of Swechha, an NGO in Delhi, does a lot of social work. Green the Gap initiative sees eco-fashionable products being made from discarded tyres, tetrapacks, colour pencils, waste cloth, waste leather, wooden wedges and other wastes.
In their Green the Gap store (also online), you could find organic clothing, accessories, home décor, stationery and gift items looking attractive.
As a social enterprise, it has the twin objectives of giving employment to migrants from small towns and to make innovative products from waste so as to reduce the wastes going into landfills.
In this social initiative but profitable venture, 15 economically deprived persons are directly employed as tailors and workers while many are indirectly benefited.
The tailors get secure employment and fair wages. With the motto, "Pause before you chuck", the enterprise is based on the philosophy of creative reuse.
Green the Gap aims to inspire youth to reuse waste and help in environment awareness. You could visit www.greenthegap.com to support their mission.
4 Designer delight: Natasha Bohra of Chromakey store in Mumbai says that a lot of experimentation and design work goes in making trendy products from useless scrap.
A desk lamp can be made of a motorcycle head lamp or a table made from discarded refrigerator parts.
A designer by instinct and practice, she promotes up cycled products and encourages customers to buy them.
Quality and durability are two parameters strictly adhered to in making products out of scrap so that customers feel justified in spending money on these products.
One of the most important factors is that products have to be stylish for customers only buy if things matches with the décor at home and are worth spending on.