Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rags to bags & more !

My dad used to subscribe to India Today magazine a decade back.I read many articles those days & was enriched by the news as also views.One such article was about an entrepreneur who had involved rag pickers into her venture.I was thrilled to read about the green enterprise she had begun.

Image courtesy: Conserve India 

The green warrior is Anita Ahuja, who along with her husband ,Shalabh,educated at  IIT   started Conserve HRP which recycles plastic rags into designer bags,purses,folders ,etal. The idea started in 1998 in Delhi & over the next two years ,Anita tried recycling plastic waste into something useful.She tried to make a thick  material so that it could be used for covering the  jhuggi jhopdis  in Delhi.Next ,she pasted plastic sheets on to card boards. Her home based products were a hit at a  fair in Delhi.Anita knew then, that  her products she had made their mark.

She involved rag pickers into her venture, Conserve HRP .Ragpickers who are at the  the bottom of the social ladder are finding life much better, all thanks to Anita Ahuja .Rag pickers collect & separate the various types of plastic rags.This is then recycled into designer bags,purses,folders,foot wear,etc. The process which makes bags,purses etc from plastic trash is a patented one.

It was begun as a recycling project & it turned into a upcycle project.This was so, as it became clear that plastic waste cannot be composted or recycled locally.Delhi generates 8000 tonnes of waste on a day to day  basis which pollutes the city .This is because only half of the waste is managed by the local authorities.The rest is left behind & chokes the metro.

Hundreds of plastic rags which choke  the land,the air,the water -in fact, the whole of the environment are collected & segregated by ragpickers.Next ,the plastic trash is upcycled by washing ,drying & turned  into plastic sheets.These plastic sheets are Handmade Recycled Plastic ( HRP ).From these plastic  sheets, come  the funky bags,purses,belts,necklaces,shoes etal !
Image courtesy: Conserve India Facebook photos.

HRP is made from discarded & used plastic bags,old truck tyre tubes,used denim jeans material,seat belts,& even old saris ! So nothing gets wasted ! This is  make overs of left overs of the plastic kind !

The technique used for recycling plastic trash into fashion accessories is called upcycle. Wikipedia defines upcycle as transforming waste materials into useful products.Moreover all products by Conserve HRP are  exported ! Hence it earns valuable foreign exchange for the nation !

The process used in Conserve HRP uses no dyes &  consumes less energy than other established methods.So it is green technique.Saves energy by saving on power bills.The original colour & form of the plastic trash remain the same after the recycling because of this green processing.Since ,no dyes are used ,pollution is non -existent.A highly economizing technique, which saves money which is pumped back into  social welfare projects.

Conserve HRP has employed rag pickers as its green warriors.A ragpicker earns nearly three times more at Conserve HRP.He is trained so that he can operate machinery for upcycling plastic waste This means so much to the ragpickers as they have a stake in the growth of Conserve HRP .Many of the employees continue with Conserve HRP by moving into manufacturing & sales .Conserve HRP has also been instrumental in supporting schools for the children of  ragpickers in the slum colonies.It is also venturing into welfare schemes for ragpickers like clinics & the like.Social responsibility of an employer towards employees is so well defined by the many welfare schemes of Conserve HRP.

Many design colleges are associated with Conserve HRP. Many  students have helped design numerous upcycled products which have become bestsellers !

The fashion accessories of Conserve HRP are a rage abroad in US,Europe,Australia .Conserve HRP felt that Indians may dislike using bags made from discarded plastic waste.As  attitudes are changing,Conserve HRP  is gearing up for selling its products in India.Very soon, it will open its shop in Delhi for desi shoppers.

Conserve HRP will soon move into its own factory premises from the rented areas.This will mean  more employment opportunities for the poorest of the poor that is the rag pickers. It will also help in sustaining a cleaner & pollution free environment.This embodies  that the creative circle  of Anita Ahuja is coming to fruition  !

Anita Ahuja deserves kudos for her NGO which has turned into a profitable venture employing 70 persons ,mostly ragpickers. The number of direct & indirect employees is nearly 300. The revenues for Financial Year 2011 were nearly 3 crores which is profitable .It earns valuable foreign exchange for India by exporting all products to customers in more than 10 countries.Its methods are pollution free & energy conserving ! It upcycles waste trash into designer goods as also upcycles the profits earned, into social welfare schemes ! Conserve HRP is a shining  example of the  grit & spirit of  woman entrepreneur ,Anita Ahuja ! Anita Ahuja's enterprise is  an eco (ecological ) -expo( export oriented ) -socio ( social welfare ) venture ! Hence, Conserve HRP by Anita Ahuja is for the people ,by the people & of the people truly embodies the spirit of  Democracy !

Written for the Indiblogeshwaris Ladies Independence Special Contest in association with


Susan Deborah said...

Wow, here is one inspiring woman who has done something that people like me can only dream of. Hats off to her. Thanks Vasudha for sharing this glowing story.

All the best.

Joy always,

Vasudha Rao said...

Thanks,Susan for your generous comments.

I am sure all who know about Anita Ahuja are overwhelmed !

Clifford Rasquinha said...

Hi Vasudha,

Great article. Enjoyed reading it. Thank you for sharing the inspiration.

Best Regards.

Vasudha Rao said...

Thanks,Clifford.I was inspired to write about her work.

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