lifestyle

Green Resolution: Inspiring enterprises to help you start the year off better

Green Resolution: Inspiring enterprises to help you start the year off better

It can be hard to believe in the power of one amid the climate crisis. And yet all of humanity’s progress, for better and worse, can be traced back to singular ideas. Today’s most vital ideas don’t centre on how to make more things faster or draw more from the Earth, but rather how to circulate, revert, simplify. Here, then, are five people with singular ideas for products and services that are both commercially and ecologically sustainable. From building an Uber-like model for scrap recycling to using ghost fishing nets in surfboards, recycling waste water without chemicals, recycling plastic as tiles, and designing apparel from the fashion industry’s scraps, they’re gently nudging consumers towards becoming better versions of themselves. Surfing the nets Did you know that an estimated 10% of the plastic waste in the world’s oceans is made up of abandoned, or ghost, fishing nets? They trap creatures that can never get out. They threaten and alter ecosystems. In 2018, Pune‘s DSM Engineering Materials (a branch of the Netherlands-based Royal DSM, which operates in the fields of nutrition, health and bioscience) began to act. They tied up with Thai brand Starboard, which makes windsurfing and paddle-boarding gear. DSM now turns ghost fishing nets into a polyamide called Akulon RePurposed, which is used in surfboard components such as fins and fin boxes. “People from coastal communities in Tamil Nadu help us in our endeavour to contribute to a circular economy,” said Nileshkumar Kukalyekar, regional commercial director for South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, at DSM. About 300 fishermen in that state are paid to keep an eye out for abandoned fishing nets. They hand these over to DSM. The nets are sorted, cleaned, and reinforced with glass fiber at the company’s Pune plant. “More companies are opening up to the prospect of using this polyamide to create sustainable products. Most recently, it was found to be a favourable material to make wiring harness clips in Ford vehicles. Schneider Electrics, too, have been using our material, Akulon RePurposed, to make switches with a lower carbon footprint,” Kukalyekar says. In a press statement issued in December, Jim Buczkowski, a vice-president of research at Ford, and a Henry Ford Technical Fellow, said, “It is a strong example of circular economy, and while these clips are small, they are an important first step in our explorations to use recycled ocean plastics for additional parts.” Life in plastic Two engineers in Bengaluru are turning discarded plastic into the ground beneath your feet. Rajesh Babu and Vinay Raghavan, both 36 and friends since college, dream of a zero-waste future. After working on a waste-recycling project in their final year of college, the two decided to scale up and take their initiative into the real world, and launched Swaccha Eco Solutions in 2009. In 2014, they were joined by management professional Victoria D’Souza. By 2013, they had partnered with the Bengaluru municipal corporation to manage dry waste collection centres in 11 wards of the city. Their focus was recycling plastic. “We started off by turning plastic into irrigation pipes and went on to create 16 different types of pipes which could be sold at subsidised rates to farmers,” Babu said. Excited by the success of this endeavour, they diversified into different grades of plastic. By 2019, they were turning the polypropylene in discarded food packaging into durable (and colourful) interlocking paver tiles. “These tiles are made entirely from recycled plastic and do not contain any aggregates like cement or wood, which means they can be recycled yet again after their shelf is over,” Babu said. The tiles have so far been laid at a preschool and an office compound in Bengaluru. Their next goal is to figure out a way to convert non-recyclable, multilayer plastic like aluminium-coated chips packets and chocolate wrappers into something called repolymix, a plastic grade that can be used in road construction. “The ultimate goal is to ensure no version of this non-biodegradable pollutant reaches the landfill,” Babu said. Styled from scraps   Ashita Singhal (above), 26, loves being a fashion and textile designer. But even as a student, she was horrified by the piles of waste the industry generates. Every tailoring class at fashion school, she says, would yield bags of scrap material destined for a garbage dump. So, for her graduation project, she decided to try and create a handspun yarn using only scrap. She was inspired by the simple design of Panipat’s popular kitschy rag rugs, which are made from cotton scraps. Her upcycling project gave her an idea for a start-up and, after she graduated, Singhal launched a studio in Noida called Paiwand (Hindi for, to patch or repair), that takes scrap material from design studios, weaves it into fabric, and sells it back to them. Since 2018, Paiwand has partnered with over 50 studios. “We have collected over 5,000kg of waste in three years,” said Singhal. The upcycled material is used in apparel and home furnishings. The idea is also to instil a sense of responsibility for the waste one generates, she added. Singhal has also built a network of 20 to 25 artisans who weave, knit, and embroider using recycled fabric, to create a range of Paiwand products such as dresses, jackets and upholstery. These products are sold at her studio, via Instagram (@paiwandstudio) and on e-commerce platforms such as Indiluxe by Tata CLiQ and selvedge.org. Next, Paiwand plans to expand its range of materials beyond wool, cotton, silk and organza, to include tarpaulin, leather, copper wire and polythene. “We aim to be a confluence of fashion, sustainability and craftsmanship,” Singhal said. Waste to water Their chemical-free sewage recycling system is so good, Smita Singhal drinks the water it produces. Seven years ago, Singhal and her father decided to try and fix a problem that mortified them every monsoon: the water in the taps at their Delhi home was obnoxious. It was murky, tainted by overflow from sewage pipes along the way. Singhal, 47, a business development and advertising professional, and Sunil Singhal, 72, a chemical engineer, began to work on a green vermifiltration system that would use a biofilter with earthworms to decompose sewage in water naturally. The water would then be filtered through woodchips, gravel and sand and then finally through a special chemical-free UF membrane made using polyvinylidene difluoride. The result: clean water from waste water, using a system that produces none of the toxic sludge of chemical filtration plants. A first prototype was set up as a pilot project for the Delhi Jal Board in 2015. This unit is still functional. A separate unit was installed at the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) office complex in 2020. “We installed a 45,000-litre plant in 2020. We use the treated water for all horticultural and sanitation activities on the premises,” said SK Bansal, an executive engineer at DDA. The Singhals’ company, Absolute Water, has since installed 21 units across eight states (Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Telangana) and Ladakh, a mix of large units that can treat up to 2 million litres a day and modular units that treat 5,000 to 50,000 litres a day. Most clients are government bodies, housing societies, educational institutions. “It’s been a learning experience as we navigated different terrains and tackled space constraints,” Singhal said. The purified water is largely used to water plants, flush toilets and clean clothes. Their latest design is a mobile unit that can recycle 5,000 to 8,000 litres a day. It’s meant for use in hilly terrains or in villages facing a flood or drought. Singhal’s next mission is to get more people to purify and reuse sewage water. It’s a huge mental block, “but we’re getting there!” All creatures great and small Abhimanyu Saighal spends a lot of time at his computer, but that’s where the similarities with most 17-year-olds end. For one thing, the Class 12 student assembled his computer himself. For another, he uses it to combine his two passions: tech and the welfare of stray dogs. For a year, Saighal poured most of his free time into creating an app to connect animal lovers with NGOs, animal ambulances, and certified vets in Delhi-NCR. Animal Care and You (ACY), launched in September, has over 100 downloads so far. “I had a little help from the internet,” Saighal said. ACY is aimed at the passionate animal lover and the concerned passerby. If you’re a first-time animal rescuer, Saighal says, it can help you find all the resources and information that you need to help an injured animal or contact the nearest animal-care NGO. “I know a bit of programming but building a mobile app was a whole different challenge,” he added. “I did a few online courses, watched YouTube videos, and reached out for help on app development forums.” Building the app wasn’t the trickiest part. “The toughest part was single-handedly verifying the database I had gathered. As of now, we have about 30 NGOs listed on our app, 60 vets and 20 animal ambulances that I have personally called and verified.” An equal amount of care has gone into the general information offered on ACY. While some has been drawn from the internet (“only credible websites”), large chunks have been collated by Saighal after in-depth conversations with vets and volunteers. The teen plans to expand his app to cover three more cities (Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai) in the next phase, and is currently collecting data for these metros. “I’ve got a few student ambassadors in each city who are helping spread the word and collate a strong database,” Saighal said. “I’m also working on uploading an open-source code for the app on GitHub, so developers around the world can collaborate with me and create versions of the app in their neighbourhoods.” Noida activist Pauline Gomes is a frequent user of ACY. “I recently used it to find a list of shelters for an abandoned puppy. It was of immense help. I forwarded the information to a couple of friends too, making life simpler,” she said. “There’s also a whole section on how to deal with distressed animals, which is extremely well researched and helpful, especially if you are starting out as an animal rescuer.” Anesha is a features writer, sometimes a reader, who loves to eat and plan fitness goals she can never keep. She writes on food, culture and youth trends. ...view detail .

lifestyle 2022-01-02 hindustantimes