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Waste Warriors Of India

50 Lakhs Of Plastic Waste And Counting! From Chips Packet, Cassettes To Plastic Bags, EcoKaari Is Upcycling Plastic Into Bags

EcoKaari, a Pune-based start-up is thoughtfully upcycling plastic waste into bags, wallets, planters, table runners, laundry bags, among other items of daily use

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50 Lakhs Of Plastic Waste And Counting! From Chips Packet, Cassettes To Plastic Bags, EcoKaari Is Upcycling Plastic Into Bags
EcoKaari upcycles three tonnes of plastic waste every month

New Delhi: Picture this – You take a break from work to satiate your hunger pangs. You purchase a packet of your favourite potato chips and finish it in the next 10 minutes while chit-chatting with your colleagues. What next? You dust off the chip crumbs from your fingers, discard the empty packet and get back to work. But have you ever wondered how many such wrappers or plastic waste you generate in a day? From polythene bags used to pack food boxes to avoid any leakage, to food packets, to detergent packs, we use plastic day in and day out in different forms. Once discarded, we forget about their existence, let alone thinking about the afterlife; out of sight, out of mind. But each of these discarded plastics will live on for anywhere from 20 to 500 years to decompose, and even then, it will never fully disappear. The plastic waste chokes marine wildlife, damages soil and poisons groundwater, and can cause serious health impacts.

Also Read: Climate Warrior: 23-year-old Recycles 10 Plastic Bags And 12 Plastic Bottles Into A Pair Of Sneakers

But EcoKaari, a Pune-based start-up is thoughtfully upcycling plastic waste into bags, wallets, planters, table runners, and laundry bags, among other items of daily use.

50 Lakhs Of Plastic Waste And Counting! From Chips Packet, Cassettes To Plastic Bags, EcoKaari Is Upcycling Plastic Into Bags

Sunglass case made from plastic waste

EcoKaari is a brainchild of Nandan Bhat, born and raised in the Kashmir valley, where he developed a love for mountains and the environment. And it is that love that drove him to build EcoKaari. Sharing his journey, Mr Bhat said,

My childhood was spent in a quaint village, Chanderhama, nestled in Kashmir. However, soon we were uprooted and relocated to the migrant camps of Jammu. Resourcefulness with limited resources is something I learned while living in those camps.

Gradually, Mr Bhat moved to Pune for education and work. When working in the corporate sector, he got room to travel across the country and trek. It was during his voyages, that he would notice plastic bottles, cans and wrappers littered around. While the bottles were picked by waste pickers as they found value in them, empty packets were left behind.

This would then drive me to reflect on the purpose of my life, said Mr Bhat.

In 2013, Mr Bhat left his career in sales and marketing to become a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Consultant and work towards the environment in some way. However, it didn’t work out the way he would have wanted it to. In 2020, Mr Bhat decided to take a leap of faith, invest two years into an idea and see where it takes him.

And EcoKaari was born.

Today, EcoKaari upcycles three tonnes of plastic waste every month. Plastic waste comes from four different sources – organisations working with waste pickers and dealing with plastic waste; donations from companies like ITC, Nestle and Pepsi; individual donations; plastic waste purchased from wholesalers within the city.

Also Read: Start-Ups That Are Working To Replace Single-use Plastic And Promote Sustainable Living

Explaining the journey of plastic from waste to a product of use, Mr Bhat said,

The plastic waste is washed, sanitised and dried under the sun. It’s a manual process; no chemical or electricity is used in the making of the fabric. Following this, plastic is categorised based on colour and thickness and cut into long strips which are then rolled on the traditional charkha (spinning wheel) and woven into a fabric. The design team then creates products out of it.

The team makes use of plastic waste including polythene, grocery plastic bags, multilayered wrappers, gift wraps, and old audio and video cassette tapes.

50 Lakhs Of Plastic Waste And Counting! From Chips Packet, Cassettes To Plastic Bags, EcoKaari Is Upcycling Plastic Into Bags

A card holder to keep all your cards at one place

The product catalogue includes different kinds of bags – totes, handbags, backpacks, lunch bags and laptop sleeves – wallets and pouches, diaries, key chains, water bottle covers, passport holders, and accessories like trays and planters. The products are priced between Rs. 130 and Rs. 3,000.

Mr Bhat explained that every product is unique, depending on the kind of plastic waste they get. For instance, each blue-coloured bag will have a different shade of blue, since varied types of plastic waste in blue colour are used. He added,

This is the reason we don’t market our products on e-commerce websites. We will have to put a picture of each item under every category. All products are available on EcoKaari’s website.

50 Lakhs Of Plastic Waste And Counting! From Chips Packet, Cassettes To Plastic Bags, EcoKaari Is Upcycling Plastic Into Bags

A sling bag made out of plastic waste

Interestingly, Mr Bhat doesn’t own the idea of EcoKaari. He said,

While conducting a baseline survey in an area in Gujarat, one of my interns, who had come from France as part of an exchange programme, spotted an NGO weaving plastic waste into the fabric.

When Mr Bhat decided to start a venture, the women of the NGO were not in a position to train him and other people. However, they were fine with Mr Bhat taking forward their idea.

I got myself trained in weaving and then started small, with a couple of artisans. There were inhibitions that we were making things out of garbage. Will the market accept it? he added.

Also Read: Made Out Of Recycled Cardboard, This Mumbai Café Has A Message For The Environment In An Out Of The Box Way

Gradually they expanded and set up two production units in Pune and Karnataka, creating livelihoods for 100 artisans.

When we get bulk orders, I pass on some to that NGO. We continue to collaborate, said Mr Bhat.

EcoKaari has a few collaborations coming up, as part of which around 2,000 artisans will be trained by March 2024. In its quest to humanise fashion, the brand is looking at exporting handmade products to European countries as the market there is mature, said Mr Bhat.

Sharing his challenges, Mr Bhat added,

Sustainability in a product is yet to mature in India. People often ask, why you are charging us for a product made out of waste? You should be giving it for free. Secondly, though plastic is available everywhere, it’s not available in the right form. For example, if a plastic bag comes with sanitary waste in it, it’s below the dignity of a waste picker to also put their hand into it. Thirdly, we are learning on the job. Different types of plastic have different treatments. For example, a hand wash refill pack is thicker than a soap packet.

Regardless of the challenges, EcoKaari products are as sturdy as canvas, said Mr Bhat.

50 Lakhs Of Plastic Waste And Counting! From Chips Packet, Cassettes To Plastic Bags, EcoKaari Is Upcycling Plastic Into Bags

A beautiful green and white book cover made by upcycling plastic waste

The brand offers after-sale service in the form of free repair, if and when needed. Repairs may include fixing the strap of a bag or any loose stitching. The products are taken back from the customers once they are at the end of their lifecycle, for safe disposal. The plastic waste is sent to another organisation that uses it to generate fuel, through the process of Pyrolysis. The cotton or fabric waste is used for cleaning purposes by a different entity. Hence, closing the loop.

Also Read: Gurugram Teenager Brings Back Barter System, Offers Upcycled And Recycled Products In Exchange Of Dry Waste

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

Highlights: Banega Swasth India Launches Season 10

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