There are two types of people in our country, one, who will crib about India’s growing waste woes, others, who will work out a solution to fight the problem. 27-year-old Nikhil Gampa from Mumbai is one of the few people who actually cared about the environment we all live in and started working in order to save it. He took it upon himself and started upcycling the humongous amount of flower waste that’s often neglected into incense sticks, in a bid to save the already depleting planet. Today, with his Green Wave initiative which was started in 2015, he is converting almost 300 kg of flower waste every week into 100 kg of incense sticks. What’s interesting is that, with this initiative, around 50-60 slums women in Mumbai and Kanpur have been benefitted as the organisation provides them with employment and livelihood.
Enter any temple, mosque, gurudwara or church, one thing that will be common is the abundance of flowers at the place of worship. Ever given it a thought what happens to those sacred flowers once we are done with our prayers? No, right. We just want to change that reality and want women to be the environmental change makers so as they can earn income respectfully, says Nikhil.
The Start Of Green Journey
In India, every single year, approximately 80 lakhs tonnes of waste flowers are being dumped in rivers. Though flowers are biodegradable, but, these do pollute the water’s fragile ecosystem, thanks to all the pesticides and chemicals that are used in order to grow these. Nikhil stumbled upon this issue during his Masters.
I always had a passion to work towards the environment, create sustainable solutions, however, the idea to start upcycling flower waste stuck me when I was doing my masters in social entrepreneurship from TISS, Mumbai. As a part of my course, I had to visit one of the remotest villages in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh. During the stay there, I noticed that the flowers offered at various temples are dumped straight in the nearby water bodies or are disposed of under a tree. That’s when it triggered in me the idea to get more involved in waste management as a concept and start upcycling the flower waste, said Nikhil Gampa.
His research on flower waste helped him understand that flowers contain carbon and can be used to make incense sticks. Nikhil talked about the idea with his brother Preetham who was studying in IIT Kanpur at that time and together with the help of a few scientists at The National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research in Kanpur, the duo came up with a perfect solution – convert all the flower waste into incense sticks.
“Initially, I also tried making compost out of the flowers waste, however, faced a lot of issues, as it was not being used by many people, whereas incense sticks were there in every household,” said Nikhil.
Talking about the challenges, Nikhil added, “Convincing persists and people from the temple were not easy, they were just not ready to give us their flower waste. However, later they were convinced as we were making things that will be offered to God only.”
From Trash To Treasure
Green Wave has tied up with many temples in Mumbai and Kanpur and has placed special dustbins so as that they can collect flowers from there. After every two days, women working with Green Wave go to each of the temples, collect the flower waste. Later, the flowers are segregated and set out to dry. Then the dried flowers are powdered and mixed with binding powder and saw dust and then rolled over with bamboo sticks to make the final product – incense sticks.
Named under the brand, ‘Nirmalya’, the incense sticks cost Rs 30 (Pack of 24 sticks) and are being sold on Green Wave website and at various temples in Mumbai and Kanpur. The slum women earn almost Rs. 150 to Rs. 200 by working for three to four hours.
Waste warrior, Nikhil Gampa apart from converting flower waste into incense sticks is also working on few other waste management programmes, speaking about the future plans, Nikhil added,
We as a organisation, looks at finding sustainable solutions for saving our enviornment. Apart from working on managing flower waste we are also converting normal waste into mushroom and then into paper. Currently, the project is in its pilot phase. Our motive is simple – reduce waste load from our planet, signs off Nikhil.