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Anita & Shalabh Ahuja, Conserve India Fighting Poverty through Fashion


The Idea

The Technology/Technique
Handmade Recycled Plastic (HRP) is created through a unique method of upcycling plastic bags. Because the plastic is kept in its original form and colour, Conserve's recycling (upcycling) technique uses much less energy than traditional recycling and doesnt need dyes. Hence it is a green way of making fashion from waste. Conserve received a 20 year patent on handmade recycled plastic in Sep10

The Product

The Product

The Journey
Registered as an NGO in 1998 and the project taken up was waste collection in the surrounding locality The idea was to separate kitchen waste and make compost in the local park By 2002, Conserve started interacting with 3000 RWAs (Residents Welfare Associations) of Delhi We already make compost - using waste to create a saleable product. Why not find a use for plastic waste collected by the rag pickers?

The Journey
Anita experimented with existing recycling technologies, tried weaving and making carpets and ultimately developed a technique of layering the pastic sheets together to create beautiful patterns Shalabh fabricated a machine for mass-production Anita produced a portfolio of 200 designs Started with wine bags, carry bags, files and folders and later moved to hand bags

The Journey
In 2003, received an order worth 30 lakh in a trade show at Pragati Maidan took 4-5 months to execute Formed a proprietorship company in 2006 New product lines such as footwear and more kinds of waste being recycled such as tyres and textiles Tie-up with kabaadiwallas and direct sourcing of waste plastic from industry New factory in Bahadurgarh, HSIIDC Industrial Estate in 2010 Moving from being a supplier to becoming a brand its recycled heritage and social purpose helps sell more

Key Events
2003: The technology to create HRP is designed 2004: HRP is launched by establishing Conserve HRP 2005: Conserve HRP enters the export market with a range of handbags 2007: Turnover exceeds 10 million Rupees 2008: Conserve HRP wins best eco design at the Hong Kong trade show 2009: Conserve HRP diversifies into more varied recycled materials including: tube, tyre, seatbelts, textile and leather waste 2010: Patent awarded to HRP 2011: Wholly owned factory opens in Bahdurgarh, Haryana. Turnover crosses half a million US$

The Impact
Revenues: 4-5 Cr in 2011 (consistent profits and average growth of 35% for the last 5 years) Over 600 people are beneficiaries of this project Better wages for Conserve employees - a ragpicker collecting bags for Conserve earns on average three times more selling to us than they would earn elsewhere. (Rs 4000 pm instead of Rs 1000-1500 pm) Training opportunities for all staff (~300 employees in 2011) at Conserve India so that they can get more skilled jobs either within the organisation or elsewhere. A school in the slum where many of the ragpickers we work with live. Loans for Conserve workers to develop their own start-up businesses, and most recently a health clinic for the entire workforce.