“If you tell people what they need to do with a touch of creativity they listen! Waste Management is not a new concept, but, still, many are clueless. My aim was to simply change this reality,” says Amishi Shah, a 26 year old who started a social enterprise Upcycle Co in Mumbai seven years ago, when she was all of 19. The aim of the venture is to solve the problem of disposing of non-recyclable e-waste. The amount of e-waste we produce is increasing rapidly with gadgets and technology invading every aspect of our lives. With more than 1.8 million tonnes a year, India is now the fifth largest e-waste producing country in the world.
To make a small difference given the large problem, the startup (Upcycle Co) started out by upcycling vinyl records, VCR tapes and CDs that are now a thing of the past into quirky and useful lifestyle products. Upcycling is kind of a recycling process, the only difference is that it is doesn’t require any technical support. It is commonly termed as creative reuse of old products. In this process, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products are transformed into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.
People love to keep old newspapers and give it to ragpickers or waste men but nobody actually cares to save their old CD or a cassette collection which is of no use to them now. Why? Simply, because reutilizing newspaper is an easy task and people are aware of the fact that it can be used for the purpose of recycling. With Upcycle Co, my aim was simply to bridge this communication gap and make people aware about the fact that there is a need for managing the waste we create but through the process of Upcycling – A concept that can be easily adopted by many, says Amishi, who is now a finance graduate and who did her Masters in International Business and Entrepreneurship in London.
Taking The Creative Route
A creative person herself, Amishi knew people are always attracted towards creative and cool stuff. That’s when the idea came to her about starting a social enterprise in India that tackles the country’s waste woes.
In India, it’s either a non-profit or a private company, people don’t understand the concept of social enterprise. Studying in London, I used to see how beautifully and creatively people there are managing their waste. I got excited about the concept and wanted to take this concept back to my country where the phenomena is little known. That’s when the idea of starting my own social enterprise struck me and I started upcycling as a concept that is not as technical as recycling but gives the same benefit – reduce the burden from landfills, added Amishi Shah.
The startup is upcycling just one kind of waste for now as they first want to master upcycling for certain products and then grow into a full-fledged waste management company. Waste warrior, Amishi has so far successfully upcycled over 1,000 kilograms of waste and has sold around 4-5000 products while saving around 1100 kgs of carbon emission. The company is growing slowly and steadily and is also getting a lot of projects from corporate firms and individual clients.
We get donation calls from people for their CD or VCR wastes so that we can turn it into something useful. That’s what I always wanted to do, it feels great that in some way I am benefiting our environment, added Amishi Shah.
The Biggest Challenge In India: No Waste Segregation At Source
One of the biggest issues when it comes to tackling India’s waste problems is that there is no waste segregation happening by the people at source.
When you tell people to segregate waste into dry and wet waste daily nobody actually cares or bothers to understand the necessity of the concept. In fact, in India, waste segregation is not happening at all. So, instead of telling them they should segregate the waste, I am trying to inculcate the idea on how they can segregate the waste by reusing the old products in a quirky way. That’s my creative way to deal with waste crisis, said Amishi, as she wants to introduce ‘Do It Yourself’ concept in waste management.
Talking about the other challenge, Amishi added, “people should be more open towards upcycled product, obviously the quality and finish will not be same as the new products but if the product gets the acceptance in the market, waste worries of India can be solved.”
A Path Of Learning
When I started this challenging task, I didn’t know that it will be a success in our country knowing the fact that this phenomena is relatively new. But, I have come so far, one thing I have realised is that, our country is ready for this. There is lot of awareness among people about wastage, now they have understood the fact that it is important for everyone to reduce, reuse and recycle, added Amishi.
Waste Management, today has become one of the major issues every Indian city is grappling with. Hopefully, with more projects like Amishi’s, the country will get one step closer to a waste-free future.
The need of the hour is to manage the waste we create, upcycling, as a concept has huge potential and if implemented properly it can change the waste game completely within the country, concludes the young and creative waste entrepreneur.
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