The Weekend Leader - Rejuvenating junk

They recycle scrap to give it a new lease of life, in a beautiful form

Shilpa Raina   |   New Delhi


Vol 4 | Issue 24

How would it look if the worn out motherboard of a computer becomes your coaster or the headlight of a bike turns into your desk lamp or tyre tube used as a wallet and the door of an old refrigerator as the centre table of your room? This is not wild imagination but creative ways of using scrap and making it look chic.

Recycling and reuse have become quite a trend as many entrepreneurs found innovative ways to make "ugly look beautiful".

Motherboard & CD Clock of WorkshopQ

Now, upcycling is fast catching up. It involves converting discarded material or waste into useful products or something that is eye-catching and user-friendly.

"There are two aspects to recycling: downcycling and upcycling. Downcycling is recycling an existing product to make the same product out of it, which is of lower value and quality. Through upcycling you move up the value chain and come to realise that trash is not ugly," says Madhvi Khaitan, founder and director of WorkshopQ.

She along with Radhika Khaitan, her sister, began their online portal in April 2010 driven by the bug of creating awareness and contributing to the environment.

They churn out quirky and innovative products like trays, coasters, photoframes, placemats, pen stands, card-holders, tissue boxes, lamps, chandeliers, mirrors and office accessories - all from scrap. The products are priced between Rs. 50 and Rs.7,000.

Radhika said their emphasis is on the utility of the product.

"We have to think out-of-the-box to lure people," she said.

According to Natasha Bohra, founder of Chromakey, scrap needs a lot of treatment and thinking.

A partition made of cycle wheels at Swechha's office

"The designers have to experiment and come up with the final product after many hits and misses. The competition is growing in this niche segment; so brainstorming is necessary," said Bohra from Mumbai.

"Usually we throw away scrap but if one looks at it in a creative manner it can be turned chic. This is what we are doing. Making ugly look beautiful," she added.

Chromakey offers desklamps made of motorbike headlights, coasters made of worn out motherboards, et al. The products are priced between Rs.500 and Rs. 30,000.

Taking this green movement a step forward is Vimlendu Jha, who has opened an office entirely made out of waste.

Jha is the founder of Swechha, an NGO involved in environmental and social development issues and, its eco-fashion arm.

"Save is just a word that is restricted to our heads. How many of us are actually making efforts to clean our environment? When you think of scrap, you think of a dustbin and the foul smell that comes along with it. So, the challenge for us is not to make a product, but to think about its utility," said Jha whose acts as a platform for other eco-friendly websites to market their products.

Vimlendu Jha at his new office that has been built with trash

Everything in Jha's new office, ranging from storage space and partitions to lamp shades, is made out of trash. From cassette covers and paint boxes, to bicycle and motorbike parts, the NGO has used them all for decoration.

The two-storey office spread over a 36,000 sq foot area cost Rs.300,000. It would have otherwise cost Rs.15 lakh.

Thanks to the organised scrap market in the country, there are no hassles in sourcing raw material.

"There are waste dealers in Malviya Nagar and scrap markets in Seelampur and Sadar Bazar. If one needs to buy tyres in bulk, that too is easy. Basically, there are different markets for different materials," Jha explained.

All these innovators faced one common problem: Convincing people to buy their products.

"There are pre-conceived notions about eco-friendly products and the mindset that 'if this is made from scrap, then why should we pay for it' are the biggest obstacles we once dealt with," said Madhvi.

Things however soon changed.

"The only way out to change this was our stylish designs and proving to people that being eco-friendly can also mean lots of fun. This process will definitely take time, but we feel that India is soon going to be on the same level as the western countries when it comes to green products," Madhvi added. - IANS


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