Many of us care for the environment and are looking for ways to eliminate or reduce the waste we generate. Only a few among us decide to go a step further and act upon this desire. Upcycling, recycling and waste management are some of the buzzwords that we read about often. While these concepts are not new, the manner in which it is being practiced and implemented is often quite novel.
For instance, you might remember the cutlery stand that was made from ghee tins at home, or painting the chai kulhad to use as a pen stand.
Scrapshala, founded by Shikha Shah, a bilingual portmanteau of the words scrap and shala (classroom) that could well mean a workshop for discarded materials, is working towards creating decorative products from waste materials and discarded items.
While the first step towards cleaning up the environment is to generate lesser waste, the next best thing is to ensure that we utilise the waste generated in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.
Started in January 2016, in one of the oldest known living cities in the world, Varanasi, Scrapshala is not only making beautiful products out of waste material but also empowering local artisans along the way. Shikha’s entrepreneurial journey began when she was doing a course at IIT Madras in Rural Technology and Business Incubator (RTBI).
“I was sure that I wanted to work with scrap and also had the urge to return to my hometown and start something of my own. Other than being able to mobilise resources better, I also had the support of my family here.”
Speaking about the challenges that she faced in the early days, she says, “Getting artisans on board was extremely difficult. Varanasi has two major (trading) communities: one is the Banarasi saree weaver and the other is the wooden toy maker. With the market for handicrafts having gone down, there were many unemployed artisans who had resorted to becoming rickshaw-pullers or sweet makers.”
Shikha saw an opportunity and started engaging with them to join her venture. While there was a lot of apprehension among the communities, some of the artisans did give it a try.
“Initially, to even explain that the company would be working with scrap and making something worthwhile out of it was a huge challenge. None of the artisans seemed to grasp why I was asking them to work with waste material. The initial sale wasn’t great either and hence there was no motivation for workers to put in that work. Eventually, the artisans have also seen how much value scrap can generate and now the team at Scrapshala is growing steadily.”
Scrapshala holds workshops to encourage people to understand waste management and practise it. Many educational institutions have tied up for these workshops. “It is amazing to see how receptive young kids are. They not only understand the concept but are also very eager to practice it at home.”
Try these fun activities with your children to encourage them to try their hand at upcycling.
X- ray lampshade:
- Take an old X-ray sheet
- Single punch machine
- A twig
Roll the x-ray sheet into a cylindrical shape.
With a pencil, mark three points on the edges where the joint of the cylinder is.
Insert the twig vertically from the first hole to the third hole, passing through the middle hole.
Place an electric tealight or a wax candle inside the x-ray cylinder and enjoy the most eccentric table lampshade.
Tin can lantern:
- A tin can of any size
Clean the outer sticker, if any, by soaking it in soap water and scrubbing it out neatly.
Fill the can with water till the top and keep it in the freezer overnight. (Leaving it longer might change the shape of the can)
Once the water turns to ice, keep the tin can on a thick towel in a horizontal position.
Start hammering small holes on the surface of the can in any design you wish to make.
If you want to make shapes like circle/heart/stars, draw it with a marker before freezing the can. Once the holes are done, leave the can out in the sun and let the ice melt.
Wipe the can dry with a cloth and paint it using fabric or oil colours.
Put a wire as handle, burn a diya/tealight inside the can and enjoy the beautiful lantern.
Bottle cap candles:
- Bottle caps
- Any instant adhesive
- Fabric or oil colours
Take a bottle cap and soak it in soap water.
After 2-3 hours, take a safety pin/knife and remove the inner rubber layer from inside of cap
Take a wick and with help of the adhesive stick one side of the wick in the centre of the cap.
Suspend the other end of the wick using a matchstick towards the top of the cap.
Melt some paraffin wax; add crayons to the melted wax for colour.
Pour the melted wax into bottle cap and let it dry.
Once dried, paint the cap using fabric/oil paint. Leave it to dry again.
Your handmade bottle cap diyas are ready.
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