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Recycle, retro style

Published : Apr 11, 2017, 12:18 am IST
Updated : Apr 11, 2017, 12:18 am IST

A city-based start-up is infusing creativity and ecological consciousness into quirky products.

Amishi Shah
 Amishi Shah

At a time when most youngsters are graduating from one electronic gadget to another, 26-year-old Amishi Shah is busy gathering obsolete waste, and turning them into utilitarian lifestyle products. Her start-up, The Upcycle Co, breathes new life into cherished vinyl records, CDs, cassettes, and more, encouraging people to not add to the growing mound of E-waste piling up in the city. She has also designed some of the city’s hippest bars purely using trash that would’ve otherwise made its way to the dump yard.

The genesis of the idea came through her travelling experiences as a kid, Amishi reveals. “I travelled a lot as a child and realised that the way Indians behave in India is way different than how they behave abroad. They will think twice before littering abroad, because the rules there are stringent, but won’t even think once and chuck the bottle out of the window here,” explains Amishi. Laughing, she says that her friends call her kachrewali as a gag, because of her knack of picking up litter and discarding it in a trashcan.

What started as a hobby to put trash to use by making creative, usable products graduated to a social enterprise, “I noticed how upcycling was popular in the U.K when I was pursuing my Masters there. I used to make DIY products out of whatever was available, and received some positive encouragement. That’s when I decided to quit my job and do something, which I call social entrepreneurship, where I wanted to start a conversation about upcycling products and at the same time strike a balance between creativity and reusing stuff,” she shares.

The Upcycle Co today uses products like vinyl records and CDs made from a toxic plastic called PVC, which is otherwise not recyclable. The idea is to give this waste a second life declares Amishi, “Upcycling uses lesser energy, and can tackle waste that do not have any place in the regular recycle value chain. By creating funky products, we aim to reduce waste from landfills and homes. The youth today is more than forthcoming to invest in upcycling, because they are well-read and understand the repercussions of the waste they are generating.”

So, where does she source her raw material from, we wonder, “Recently, we received a donation from a lady who had a collection of 1,500 CDs and did not know what to do with them. We get donation requests from all across India but our logistics isn’t as developed so currently we are taking donations only from Pune and Mumbai. For vinyl records, we use records that are scratched, or labels that people don’t listen to, and that are not used on the turntable anymore,” she reveals.

At a household level, even if someone tells us to separate all the different kinds of plastic, people would do it for a while and, then lose interest but if the same plastic is reused to make something quirky and creative, people would be willing to start making an effort. “Today people are not motivated to recycle because the process is boring and tedious but when products are made out of waste, the utility of the those products only increases. It’s like infusing creativity in trash,” she says.

Her social enterprise acts as a creative consultant to firms who produce waste but have no idea what to do with it. “We recently designed a table using tyres and waste bottle caps at the Bar Terminal in Mumbai.  We are also in talks with various conglomerates as for making creative products out of the waste they are generating,” she concludes.

Tags: amishi shah, electronic gadget, upcycling, recycle