In earlier times, statues of Lord Ganesha were sculpted with much devotion from clay and painted with natural dyes – mostly in the home itself during Ganesh Chaturthi. Today they are made using Plaster of Paris and thermocol and decorated with synthetic colours. The side effects of such materials are not a mystery. After all, every Ganesh Chaturthi, millions of the idols are submerged in our water bodies and what goes in the water directly affects us all. But a lack of appropriate avenues still leaves many helpless when it comes to eco-friendly ways of fulfilling religious rituals.
However, 33-year-old Tripti Gaikwad, a resident of Nashik, is offering a solution to this.
While Tripti is an advocate by profession, through her social organisation Sampurnam Seva Foundation, she has recycled over 20,000 items of religious significance into toys for slum children, feeding bowls for stray animals, and birdhouses, she says.
It was in 2019 that an incident inspired Tripti to do something about the situation.
“My house is near the Godavari river. One day, I was at the river when I saw a man arrive with some old photo frames, and watched him as he began dropping them in the river. I stopped him and explained that he could recycle the paper and frame wood, and he agreed. That’s when I realised that if I help people recycle these things, great results can be borne,” she told The Better India.
This laid the foundation of Sampurnam. With financial support from her father, Tripti began contacting people via social media to send in any sculptures or photo frames they were looking to dispose of. A positive response within the first week was enough to get the ball rolling.
Today, people from Pune, Nagpur and Mumbai have also begun sending items. These people contact Sampurnam through social media channels and a WhatsApp group that has been created for open communication. The company charges a nominal fee of Rs 50 for each item given for recycling. This covers freight charges as well as other procedural expenses.
“Apart from saving the environment, our team also ensures that no religious sentiments are hurt in the process. For this reason, a puja is conducted for each item before remaking it into something of utilitarian value,” she says.
“The sculptures are broken down to powder form and the Plaster of Paris (POP) is used to make toys of various kinds. The wooden frames are sent to recycling units that we have tie-ups with. Some large frames are upcycled into birdhouses by us. When mixed with a little cement, this POP is used to make feeding bowls for stray dogs as well,” Tripti explains.
She shares that the toys are given to the underprivileged children residing in the slums of Nashik.
Others often ask for upcycled utensils that they can use to feed strays or at home. These people donate money for the products and their delivery by choice.
As of now, a team of 25 volunteers and eight daily wage workers assist the entrepreneur in the collection, recycling, and distribution of the revised products.
The motto of the organisation is to ensure environmentally conscious disposal of redundant religious items. Staying true to this mission, the team is clearly going the extra mile to strike a balance between culture and ecological action.
If you would like to send your share of idols, picture frames, or other items, this is where you can contact them.
Read the article in Hindi here: खंडित मूर्तियों को बचाकर, बनाती हैं बच्चों के लिए खिलौने और घोंसले
Edited by Divya Sethu