It is a matter of choice. Some may see the trash or waste lying around them and complain about the filth all around them. Some may be indifferent and continue adding to the pile of garbage all around them. But then there are those who want to make a difference and be agents of change. 28 years old Shikha Shah belongs to the latter group of people. With ‘Waste is valuable,’ as her mantra, she left her high paying job in Chennai and moved back to her hometown Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh to start her startup called Scrapshala. This startup helps in recycling trash or scrap by transforming it into useful home utility products. Today, she has successfully recycled more than 20,000 plastic bottles and around 10,000 kilograms of waste.
Spotting trash at every other corner in different parts of India is common but finding a solution that could be practiced at consumer level by any age group was exciting for me. Travelling at various places in India exposed me with a major problem that our country is currently facing – trash or waste management. People do not care about the environment at all, this motivated me to move back to my hometown and quit my well-paying job to start my own innovation that could help combat this growing problem, said Shikha Shah founder of Scrapshala who earlier used to work at IIT Madras.
From Trash To Treasure
Started in 2016, Scrapshala aims to create a market for upcycled goods in India and help people move towards a zero waste lifestyle. The company is currently dealing in two types of features – Product based (using trash and converting it into useful decorative pieces) and service based (fixing non-working items.) It is an online and offline venture which deals with goodies made out of trash, currently, it is selling products online on more than 15 portals and is involved with more than 200 people offline.
Initially I started using my own home garbage to make different re-decorative pieces. Next stop was to go to the municipal corporation of the city and ask for waste items and then turn it into beautiful products. Scrapshala is not like a big chain, it is a startup, and we started with few people only. I take ideas of different products from friends and family and through internet and then design it so as the artisans involved can replicate the designs into new products, added Shikha Shah as she explains the working of the company.
With 12 artisans and few design people, the company is slowly changing the fate of India’s garbage problem. Now, people from Varanasi and other cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Indore, Bhadoi have started sending their trash items to the company for a makeover. Till January 2017, more than 3500 products made out of trash have been sold by the company and they have redecorated 6-7 cafes and restaurants in the city with their ‘trash goodies.’
What Happens To The Waste At Scrapshala
Scrapshala is working with many industries within Varanasi and citizens who send their waste items to the company on regular basis. Some, have their request of turning their garbage into products they like, some simply donate it for the purpose of recycling, whereas some just hand it over so as the company can turn it into something useful.
The products made from trash are reasonable enough for people to buy. From home décor to garden décor to office accessories to upcycled games for kids to corporate gifting and to furniture and customized gifting products, we cover it all. Usually, it takes 2-3 days for us to transform trash into a product of utility, added Shikha Shah.
Since Varanasi is the gem of textile industry, the company recently has got involved with textile waste as well.
Challenges On The Road Of Innovation
There is a pre-conceived notion about the word ‘scarp.’ When people get to know about the fact that we are selling products made out of waste then everyone loses interest. Their thinking is that why waste money on trash when we can spend the same amount and buy a new product. Scrapshala’s aim is to make people aware about the concept of goodies made out of trash and how by buying these products they can move towards zero-wastage lifestyle, added Shikha Shah.
Another issue with these types of innovations is lack of government intervention, explaining this problem Shikha Shah, added, “If government starts keeping just small bins at every ward or areas for the purpose of recycling and hand it over to companies like us who are there in the market with an aim of recycling then waste issues of the country can be solved to great extent.”
Towards Greener Future
Apart from being visually stunning, these products are helping in reducing the load from already overflowing landfills.
If one consumer is purchasing a bottle of soft drink every day then he is adding approximately 365 glasses/plastic bottles every year to the overfilled landfills by throwing it away. If one upcycles just 50% of those 365 bottles and convert it into useful products such as planters, then one can save 182 bottles an year from going to landfills. Now, just imagine one lakh users doing a similar practice, together they can save around 1.82 crore plastic bottles from getting thrown away in landfills, where they may take more than 80 years to get decomposed, said Shikha Shah.
India needs to adopt this thumb rule if they want to get rid of their waste issues – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. The dream towards Clean India by 2019 will only be achieved if people take waste management seriously. People need to be made aware about the idea and concept of recycling and government can play a role by promoting startups like Scrapshala reach out to more people.
I really want to push the recycling market in India to great extent, because we need it – India needs it. All I want is people to start accepting waste items and understand the phenomena of reusing, because this will benefit them only in future, concludes the waste warrior Shikha Shah.
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