The next time you see a stack of old newspapers or shredded fabric trims that are begging to be disposed, don’t be in a mad rush to call your local kabadiwalla. Look hard and you just might see a pillow in the pile of papers. Focus and you’’ll definitely see a business opportunity.
“Who would have thought that a carpet made from rags could sell for as much as Rs4,000 per square metre or that cushion covers, a wall hanging or window blinds could be made out of newsprint?” asks Anuradha Patni, joint partner, Xylem Papercraft, a company which makes home decor products with “any material we enjoy working with”.
Some product designers are now creating treasures from trash and exporting these products to international markets. Ecolink India, a Mumbai-based organization, believes that with good design inputs, it’s easy to create fashionable products from recycled materials. Their recycled Ecolink chipboards and Ess boards, made from Tetra Pak post-production scrap, can be used to make doors, furniture and even small-sized objects such as trays and clocks. “The boards are versatile and you can adapt them to make many objects,” says managing director Jignesh Shah.
Don’t believe us? Look at all the products featured here and you see that waste, if used intelligently, can make for exciting interior items. Bits of leftover fabric were used to fashion small flowers, which were then sewn on a sheet of canvas to make a carpet. Slim strips of newsprint were woven together using transparent nylon strings to fashion sheets, which were then sewn on a canvas to make a rug. A thin piece of Ecolink board was used to make a fruit tray and even a wall-shelf. Small paper beads were made from beedi wrappings and then strung to make bead curtains for windows.
“The key to making interesting decor goods from recycled materials lies in learning to sort things correctly right at the start. When we decided to use shredded paper trims for our products, we had to make sure they were colour-sorted from the beginning. Also, everything is reusable. From old cinema posters, wrapping paper sheets, cardboard tea packets and newsprint, everything had potential. Now we have even got a friend who makes leather goods, to send us the leftover trims,” says Patni, whose company essentially exports these products, but has now opened a flagship store, Rickshaw Recycle, in the Garden Village in Delhi.
Patni believes that while the West is increasingly using recycled goods to do up their interiors, this trend is yet to make a significant impact in India. “The two misconceptions about goods made from recycled materials here are that they cannot be great looking and they should be really cheap,” says Shah.
“People who are sensitive to the environment and are closely linked to the design fraternity are the only ones who seem to be interested in looking at window blinds made of paper or a rug made from waste fabric and newsprint,” she adds. Also, these products are high maintenance and need a dust-free environment to survive, which becomes tough to ensure in an average Indian suburban home.
“Another reason why we do not look at goods made from recycled products is perhaps because we feel that what cannot be used in the house or elsewhere any more cannot translate itself into a item that will add beauty to our interiors,” explains Renuka Taneja, who runs Windows, an art and craft centre for kids, where they are let loose with seemingly ‘waste’ products and are encouraged to make utility and aesthetic items for decor purposes.
Through her classes, Taneja hopes to sensitize children and their parents towards environmental issues and also realize that what may be one person’s waste can be translated, with some creative thinking, of course, into another’s idea of a beautiful object.