Garbage + Innovation = Green Success

26th May 2009
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How can you help save the environment and create popular products at the same time? The answer is upcycling – the process of taking garbage and transforming it into something of greater use and value. The concept was first introduced by the authors of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things and has been very successfully implemented by firms such as Terracyle.

Now a couple in India are helping take plastic bags out of landfills and re-using them to create a stunning range of clothes, bags and carpets. Conserve India, founded by Anita and Shalabh Ahuja, provides employment to over 1000 people across 3 slums in Delhi and churns out products that are in hot demand all over the world and sell for as much as 300 euros. In an interview with GreenMuze, Anita explains more about Conserve,

Along with support and encouragement from my family and friends I established Conserve, a non-profit organization in 1998 with a mandate to work in the area of energy efficiency and waste management. In 2002,Conserve started working on developing an alternative recycling or rather up-cycling process that uses abundantly and freely available bags as a resource for income generation for the urban poor through their conversion into a “renewed” material which we call HRP – Handmade Recycled Plastic.
Conserve has trained people from urban slums of Delhi to process waste into recycled sheets, which is more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than conventional recycling processes. This process converts used polythene bags into a ‘renewed’ innovative material with significantly different properties and great visual appeal, without the use of any additional colour or dyes.
Conserve‘s process of recycling is far more environmentally and energy friendly than the conventional plastic recycling process. Moreover, it is very good for the environment as it uses existing everyday skills of local people. Now Conserve is supporting nearly 100 rag pickers and has about 50 employees working for them. 

You can also check out this video from the World Resources Institute to understand more about the process used by Conserve. The upcycling market has huge potential in India – which is poised to become the third largest consumer of plastics in the world – and is a great idea for those interested in Green Technology. A great place to start for anyone interested in upcycling and the tripple bottom line point of view of economy is the Eco-Capitalist Guidebook by Tom Szaky. 

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