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Kerala Girl Collects Discarded Bottles From Dirty Lake, Upcycles Them Into Decor!

23-year-old Aparna S is on an environmental crusade—one that brings craft and conservation under a single umbrella.

Right from childhood, craft had always intrigued Aparna S. A resident of Munroe Thuruthu in Kollam, she would dabble in different craft forms, despite having no formal training. Her exceptional handiwork captivated her family and friends.

Her passion for craft became pronounced with terracotta jewellery which she started making during her undergraduate days.

Friends, teachers and acquaintances from college—everyone wanted to buy her products. Soon, word spread and more orders began pouring in. She then decided to sell her craft work through social media under the brand name, Rudra.

Promotion

But today, the 23-year-old young woman is on a slightly different mission—one that brings craft and conservation under a single umbrella.

Aparna. Credits: R Madhavan.

Roughly over a year and a half ago, Aparna began noticing mounds of glass bottles discarded near the banks of Ashtamudi Kayal (lake), which was quite close to her home.

“While these were definitely littered around the entire area, I’d noticed that most of these bottles were quite pretty. Whenever I passed this way, I would collect the bottles with the intention of upcycling them creatively. I started with simple drawings and later progressed to art techniques like decoupage as well as calligraphy,” she says.

With complete passion and dedication, she transformed these bottles into works of art. When her beautifully upcycled bottles began piling up in her backyard, she created a Facebook page to sell them. Giving a quirky edge to the Malayalam word for bottle, she named her new venture ‘Quppi’.

And just like her terracotta jewellery, her “Quppi” wares also found an instant fan base.

“It was encouraging as I began getting a lot of orders. While I was happy that everyone loved my products, what made me happier was the fact that the areas from where I was picking these discarded bottles were slowly becoming cleaner. My efforts were successful in not only making the lakeside more beautiful but also in inspiring others. Seeing me in action, people across Kollam started collecting discarded bottles and would supply these to me for upcycling. Change was happening through one simple act!” says Aparna, who is currently pursuing her first year of B.Ed.

Encouraged by this momentum, Aparna was driven to scale up her conservation initiative through community participation.

Aparna’s amazing handiwork, Quppi.

On 17 March, she and her friends organised a clean-up drive along Link Road near Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus stand in the city.

“A lot of people joined us in this initiative, and by the end of it, we managed to collect about a truckload worth of bottles. They helped with not just the collection of the bottles but also cleaning these for my use later,” she adds.

This inspired her further to do something for the “World Water Day”, on 22 March.


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“It is not just glass bottles that lie along the banks of Ashtamudi Kayal, but a plethora of other waste too. So many people are into craft these days and specially upcycling. The way I specialise in glass bottles, I was sure that there would be people who work with materials like plastic and other waste too. We could invite people to fish out for waste and ask them to upcycle these very materials on the spot. That’s how this drive was envisioned,” Aparna explains.

She circulated a simple post on the clean-up drive amongst her friends and acquaintances, hoping for decent participation. Choosing the shady location of DTPC’s Adventure Park, she requested the authorities for allowing the participants to work there. To her surprise, they told her that no ticket charges would be levied from them as they were doing something good for the environment.

Her small network of friends worked quite well as over 100 people joined Aparna and her friends at the park on 22 March.

Collection drive in Ashtamudi Kayal.
Collecting all kinds of waste.
Aparna talking about the importance of upcycling.
Advocate Rahul V I talking to the participants.
Work in progress.
Stall near KSRTC bus stand.

“We started at 11 am with a pep talk. There were students from engineering and fashion design colleges as well as kids under the Mathrubhumi Seed programme. In addition to that, teachers and authorities from the Health Department as well as school students joined us in our collection drive. By noon, the collection was complete, and we dispersed for lunch. We’d set up a small stall where I’d put kept art supplies that people could use. All of us wrapped up with our upcycled products by 4.30 in the evening,” she excitedly shares.

Advocate Rahul V I, a known figure who had worked in several cases associated with Ashtamudi Kayal also joined Aparna in her mission. “He had personally reached out to me to join this initiative. He gave a encouraging speech at the event that motivated us all. The overall response was overwhelming,” she adds.

Aparna and her friends then set up a stall near the KSRTC bus stand by 5 in the evening the same day, and managed to sell all the products and received good returns.

“While my initiative was never profit-oriented, the returns from the sales had been really heartening. None of my drives has been powered by any sponsors or corporate backing. I do it purely out of a passion for craft and through that, for our environment,” Aparna shares.

She attributes her mother for the creative strain in her blood, who like Aparna, loves craft but has no formal training.

Aparna with her mother.

“Like I go around collecting bottles, my mother, who works in the State Health Department, loves collecting pots and every time she steps out, she gets at least one home!” laughs Aparna.

As for future plans, the young woman intends to empower survivors of sexual abuse and human trafficking at the Nirbhaya shelter home in the city by teaching them her upcycled bottle craft. “I used to volunteer there earlier and taught kids to elderly women different craft forms. Engaging them in art and craft is relaxing and rejuvenating for them. Now, I want them to work with them and help them to earn a living out of it,” she concludes.


Join Anand and The Better India as part of the Lake Revivers Collective and donate now to help us breathe life back into India’s lakes.

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We admire Aparna’s passion for craft and how she is effectively utilising her skills for the greater cause of conserving Asthamudi Kayal. A truly inspiring youngster, we wish her luck in all her future endeavours.

To check out Aparna’s upcycled bottle craft, you can go to the Quppi Facebook page here. You can also reach out to Aparna at 7907504101.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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Written by Lekshmi Priya S

Shuttling between existentialist views and Grey's Anatomy, Lekshmi has an insanely disturbing habit of binge reading. An ardent lover of animals and plants, she also specializes in cracking terribly sad jokes.