Business of Environment, The Untapped Million-Dollar Industry
“We are sitting on a plastic time bomb", said Central Pollution Control Board in a report to Supreme Court. The rate at which we are producing waste and consuming the natural resources, we need 1.5 Earths. Do you understand what that means? We actually need another half of a planet like Earth to sustain life and not even Bill Nye can answer when that will happen.
India itself produces 62 million tonne of garbage annually, out of which 5.6 million metric tonne are just plastic. By 2030, we will be the largest generator of municipal solid waste and that is not good news. It isn’t my intention to depress the readers with these facts. Don’t blame the messenger. I’m sure that the increased concern about pollution over the past few months has given everyone enough insight about the need to addresses this issue. However, like shot arrows we cannot really undo what we have done. So, rather than critiquing humans for, as Linkin Park puts it, ‘what I’ve done’, we need to right our wrongs and come up with some firm waste management ideas. And this is where lies a great entrepreneurial opportunity.
Recycling In Style
Plastic is a major contributor, and since we can’t eliminate it, we must recycle it as much as we can. And best out of waste is one of the best places to start. Luckily, in India, 60% of plastic is recycled but that number is not enough. It has to go up and start-ups like ‘The Upcycle Projects’ are working on the same. Founded in April, 2014, this Mumbai based startup is a unique organization that longs to ‘create profitable venture through environment sustainability’. They are recycling with style. The Upcycle Project endeavours to create beautiful quirky lifestyle, home decor and gifting products by using what one might call “trash”. They primarily use old Vinyl records and carve it out into posters, key chains, key holders and what not. These records are made of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) that are extremely detrimental to land when exposed and are non-recyclable. Therefore, the only way to reuse it is by up cycling them.
We had a chance to talk to Amishi, founder of The Upcycle Project, and this is what we found –
Amishi had experience working with Edelweiss Financial Services, Bombay Times and three other startups before starting The Upcycle Project. She completed her education in International Business from United Kingdom and initially wanted to start something in the field of dance. It was a class in college that made her change her mind. It involved a number of case studies on sustainability and unique business that stemmed from being environmentally, economically and socially sustainability. The idea was to save the planet while making well designed, functional, up cycled products that could compete with the main stream products in price and quality. Clearly, they seem to be on the right path.
The focus of The Upcycle Project is to promote waste management. The idea is to make people feel accountable for the present circumstances and augment awareness about recycling. Recycling is a million dollar industry which is still untouched and The Upcycle Project is a step towards it. For them it’s more of an endeavour than a venture as they are still trying and still growing. They started by experimenting with trash and figured that it is was as fun as it was simple. The best part is that anybody could do it. The Upcycle Project is promoting that recycling is cool and saving the environment could be fun.
Exploring opportunity and growth
Upcycling is very nascent, not only in India but the world. Whilst there are many individual artists passionate about upcycling, only few have created a scalable company that can compete with mainstream organisations. With the growing conversation about waste management there is a dire need for creative solutions such as upcycling. In 2015, the global waste management industry market potential was pegged at 475 billion US dollars and it is estimated to grow to 562 billion US dollars. A report launched by NOVONOUS - Waste Management Market in India (2014 – 2025) - finds that waste management market is expected to be worth US$ 13.62 billion by 2025. This tells us that there is a need for creative waste management system and they hope to be a significant player in this industry.
Save the environment
The Upcycle Project has a segment in their social media websites known as DIY Mania. In this segment they encourage audience, which comprises of almost 12,000 people to take up projects and make best from waste. Interested ones can then send their creations which will be featured on the website. This way they also promote creativity with awareness for upcycling.
This unexplored business is waiting to be explored. People need to change the way they think and this king of change is definitely for the best, because not every change is good. Ask the environment.
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