By Hand From The Heart is a curated makers market event in Chennai, South India. UPCOMING EVENT: CHENNAI: AUGUST 3RD – 4TH,
Upcykle is an initiative by Kabadiwalla Connect, a young social enterprise start-up, based in Chennai; dedicated to helping Indian communities handle their recyclable and upcyclable waste responsibly.
Upcykle. How did it come to be?
Upcykle is an initiative by Kabadiwalla Connect, a social enterprise that has built an Information System to help everyone handle their recyclable waste responsibly. Over the past few months, we have been extensively studying the way in which the informal waste system is organized and Upcykle has emerged from this understanding. The brand name is also derived from ‘upcycle’, a term used to describe the “creative reuse of waste”.
Its aims, challenges and reception.
Around 4500 tonnes of waste gets generated in the city daily, and a large portion of it (68%) is actually household waste. All this waste usually goes to the landfill. There are several health and environmental issues pertaining to that. Therefore, segregation of waste at source (at home) is crucial.
Another thing to note is that 18% of that waste is recyclable. The idea of Upcykle is to work with that recyclable waste and prevent it from entering the landfill. Our beginnings are very humble and we hope to contribute a lot more in the future.
Creating functional products out of waste is not the same as designing from scratch, using raw materials. Typically, waste comprises of things like plastic bottles, glass bottles, tin cans, etc. which already have a utilitarian value and finished products in themselves. It is a challenge then, to design something new out of those items.
The network of kabadiwallas is an intricate one. Not only is it organised a certain way, a lot of ancillary industries depend on the waste. For example, the waste generated from textile is sent to the Kabadiwalla who then supplies it to the car mechanics who require cloth for wiping, or it is turned into doormats and resold in the market. The list just goes on. Hence, sourcing can be quite challenging if one does not completely understand the material flows in the system and be aware of the kind of volumes that are available. One needs to be able to work around the uncertainties.
We plan to launch our brand and online store with the show and we are hoping that it gets well received.
What is the most rewarding part of all of this for you? What have you observed?
Each of our products tell a story about where we’ve sourced the material from, how we worked around the properties of the material, what was the idea/inspiration behind the design, and so on. We have managed to figure out how to source these materials and make our products in larger numbers. All our research work has culminated into setting up this brand and that for us, is very rewarding.
How do you describe your work to people who aren’t quite aware about the concept?
Upcykle is a marketplace for premium products made from everyday waste. We provide consumers with products that cause less harm to the environment by working with material destined for the landfill.
Tell us about your proposed showcase at the By Hand, From The Heart.
The line up will have lifestyle/home decor products made from wood and glass. We launch with six simple products- glass bottle dishes, planters, vases, donut pendants, glasses (set of 3) and wooden iPhone stand.
What is currently inspiring you?
Simple, basic, and minimal designs.
How technology has evolved and supported what you do.
As we are a research based organisation, documentation of data is very important. We have managed to map roughly 650 kabadiwallas in 3 zones of our city and have added those points on to our Information Service. We also have a blog space where we talk about the insights from the research work that is carried out by us- both in terms of the waste ecosystem as well as the design/prototyping process. Not only does this help educate people about our work, it is also very useful for us to revisit and reflect on our process. This rigorous system has been established with the support of technology.
Chennai – your association with this city. Your observation of the Chennai’s shopper.
Through our work, we have been able to understand Chennai city from another light. Not only do we have a spatial understanding of the city, we also have an understanding of how the informal waste ecosystem is organised. We’ve been working closely with various stakeholders to help mobilize people to segregate waste at source, for a while now.
As we are newly entering the market with our products, we hope to gain some insights about Chennai’s shoppers, this time.
What’s up next for you?