• Navmalika Sidhu

Upcycling Plastic: A circular approach

Shampoo bottles, soft drink bottles, chips packet, saran wrap, bubble wrap, food takeaway containers, hangers… What do these have in common? Plastic! These single-use products make up the largest sector of plastic—manufactured as well as wasted. There is about 8.3 billion tons of plastic in the world, as of today—some 6.3 billion tons of that is trash. And since the 1950s, our yearly plastic consumption has increased three-fold.


Image courtesy: Science Museum Group Collection

Parkesine, as world’s first-ever man-made plastic was called, came into existence in 1862. It was named after Alexander Parkes, a metallurgist and inventor from England, who introduced it and marketed it as an alternative to ivory and horn. Plastic, ever since, has become an indispensable part of all major industries—and our daily lives—across the globe. That’s no surprise, because plastic can be manufactured inexpensively and mass produced, is water resistant, shock resistant and electrically insulating. While these very qualities make plastic the go-to material for durable products, its enduring nature also means it takes somewhere between 20-500 years (depending on the type of plastic) to decompose in landfills. Plastic bottles, for instance, are estimated to require approximately 450 years to decompose in a landfill. Moreover, sometimes this plastic waste, due to mismanagement, ends up in water bodies, breaking down into small particles of plastic called microplastics, which harm marine life and indirectly disrupt our food chain.


Photo by Antoine Giret

This has emerged an even bigger problem during the pandemic, with the e-commerce industry booming. All those parcels we’ve so eagerly waited for, nicely stuffed in plastic packaging, have only added fuel to the fire—quite literally, if you look at current worldwide temperatures and wildfires. While recycling may seem like a solution, according to a study published in Science Advances, only 20% of plastic waste is actually recycled. Other estimates place this at 5%. Besides, recycling has its own limitations.


This is where upcycling comes in. The unsung hero of circularity, upcycling ensures the plastic doesn’t actually reach the landfills and can be well utilized through DIYs or by sending the waste to companies that can upcycle it for you. Of course, upcycled food containers, plastic bottles and jars are a common sighting in Indian households, from being reused, to made into planters. More interestingly, they are now being used to build hedges and even entire houses, in the form of Eco-bricks, which are empty plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash like plastic grocery bags and chip wrappers that are finally covered with cement to finish the setting.


But even more significantly—for us, at Pretty As You Please, that is—you can now have your plastic packets and wrappers upcycled into a chic fashion statement! Brands like Ecokaari and Recharkha are reimagining the idea of waste as well as the traditional Indian charkha, to create gorgeous, one-of-a-kind accessories—bags, wallets, laptop sleeves, what have you! And because these are accessories, you’re saved the added baggage of microplastics—you’re not wearing these, and they’re not being washed. It’s really as simple as collecting the waste items from your own house or volunteering to collect from your friends and family, and shipping these directly to the brands. And then click to buy an accessory of your choice!


Image courtesy: Eco-Kaari


What kind of plastics they work with?


Eco-kaari: Chips, biscuit wrappers, Maggi wrappers, Gift papers (even glittery ones), Cassette tapes (Audio & Video), Plastic or Polythene bags, Hitlon foam, Delivery plastic packets (Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra), Flex, Foil balloons and Multi-layered wrappers.


Recharkha: Chips, biscuit wrappers, Maggi wrappers, Gift papers (even glittery ones), Cassette tapes (Audio & Video), Plastic or Polythene bags, Foam sheets, Delivery plastic packets, sponges, plastic sheets and Bubble wraps.



Where to send?


EcoKaari—Humanising Fashion

Plot No 69, Tarang, Swedganga Society,

Internal Canal Road,

Warje, Pune- 411058

Maharashtra


OR


C/O JSW Foundation

OP Jindal Centre (OPJC)

Opp. Government Model School

Toranagallu, Sandur Taluk

Bellary District- 583123

Karnataka


reCharkha—The EcoSocial Tribe Shri Ramkrushna Niwas, Sridhar Colony, Opposite Restaurant Nation52, Cummins College Road, Karve Nagar, Pune, 411052

Maharashtra