Preventing waste and conserving natural resources is a trending allocution of recent times. We all probably heard of the ‘Three R’s” of Sustainability; reduce, reuse and recycle. Reduction curtails the use of new resources whereas using a material more than once in its prime form keeps new resources from being used for a while longer, and old resources from entering the ravage spate. Recycling converts waste materials into new products. Using physical and chemical processes it does not keep the original form.
The term ‘upcycling’ was first used by Reiner Pilz in an article by Thornton Kay of Salvo in 1994. Upcycling gives a thing an improved objective. Today ‘upcycling’ refers to the process of modifying old or repudiated materials into something useful and often beautiful.
Upcycling by Reiner Pilz
Consumer materials such as paper, plastic, metal and glass are broken down when they go for recycling. Hence their base materials can be redone into a new consumer product. In this case the quality might be compromised. To upcycle we do not need to break down the materials. We refashion it and often able to maintain the quality.
Although upcycling is not a new concept it is rather ‘old with a twist’. Hipcycle informs, “Thrift is still a trend today and a big reason some people upcycle. Others enjoy the artistic aesthetic, with lots of upcycled items rivaling those found in high-end department stores. But one of the biggest reasons for the rebirth of upcycling is the positive impact on the environment. Items destined for the dump are rescued and remade into something useful.” In many developing countries it is a way of life for people who are unable to afford the cost of raw materials. So when you upcycle you pull out components from the global detritus torrent. Unlike recycling it does not need energy or water to break down materials. Upcycling only requires your own inventiveness and oomph.
Recycle VS Upcycle
In the 1930s-40s families used to have very scant economic or material assets. In this age of austerity reusing and repurposing items anew until they were no longer useful was common. Feed sacks became dresses or old doors became the new dining room table. Frugality has compelled a man from Jodhpur to do the same in recent times and it gives him a turnover of around $8million.
Hritesh Lohiya started his journey with a textile chemical factory. Then he ventured a stone cutting factory and gave up. He tried his luck again with manufacturing and selling washing powder. He entered into the stock market business too. The common thread among these perils is he lost huge amount of money. Let us learn what he did next from his statement below:
Priti International designs and manufactures sundry handmade products out of waste materials. Now there are three large factories with around 400 people for the production. However the core team contains only two people, Hritesh and his wife Priti. It is exclusively a design-based business. They do brainstorm on each waste product they come across to make a useful product out of it. After that the item is first brought to the factory. Once the design is ready the final product is manufactured by the workers in the factory. Hritesh finds it exciting and he personally ensures to make ‘something people like to own’.
The initial jaunt was not that gleeful though. There was already a series of failures which emanated lack of self-confidence. Like many budding entrepreneurs, who were not born with golden spoon in mouth, Hritesh also pitched his idea to many investors. No one took him seriously and he started selling his wife’s ornaments for the seed fund. “We would make samples, take photos and upload them online and then market those pictures to prospective customers around the world. It took us around 2 years to get our first order. Those two years were the hardest part,” Hritesh recollects.
They started a handicrafts business in 2003. Not enough orders made it difficult to sustain. They have got some tin chemical boxes and drums in the factory. A customer liked it a lot when they have turned them into chairs and tables. That is when Hritesh accessed into the recycling and upcycling business. He has not taken any loan or financial assistance from any institution.
Priti International makes handbags from old gunny bags, cast off military tents, denim pants. They also produce furniture from waste tins, drums, old military jeeps, tractor parts, waste machine parts and lamps from old scooter- and bike-lights. They have also started attending auctions organized by Indian Railways and Army to purchase waste material.
A few products of Priti International
Discovery Channel has shown interested in the success story of Priti International and featured in its segment titled, ‘The Liquidators’.
Priti International focuses on China as the potential in China is high for them. Their products are pretty popular among the youths in China. The new generation often uses their products to decorate bars, cafés, pubs, restaurants etc. Besides they have a customer base in 36 countries including USA, European nations, and Australia. Priti International is now India’s biggest exporter of waste handicraft products and the only one in India to export to China.
Hritesh has a plan to expand the production facility and scale his venture to $20 million by this year
“We have recently started a retail showroom in Ningbo, China for selling our products in retail. This is just a test showroom, but the response has been heartwarming. Now we are planning to open 12 more showrooms across China exclusively, for our products,” he informs.
He admits India is a potential marketplace due to the boom in e-commerce. Hitesh is in touch with Pepperfry and Flipkart so that he can sell his products online here.
The biggest festival of our city is around the corner. Due to the ongoing trend of theme pujas we would be able to see a lot of upcycling projects. It is a pity that we still cannot preserve such aesthetic creations forever. Priti International inspires us to take the further step.
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