“I don’t think outside of the box; I think what I can do with the box.”-Anonymous
The above quote can be one of the best taglines for Upcycling. Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.
The concept of Upcycling was incorporated and brought to the limelight by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their 2002 book “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things”.
They state that the goal of Upcycling is to prevent wasting potentially useful materials by making use of existing ones.
Upcycling reduces the consumption of new raw materials when creating new products. Reducing the use of new raw materials can result in a reduction of energy usage, air pollution, water pollution and even greenhouse gas emissions.
With the goal of building awareness on Upcycling, Smriti Tiwari and Arun B George from Earth5R Bangalore conducted a community activity for a group of children at K.S. Garden Slum, Bangalore on 27th February 2016.
The program was initiated by a brief introduction and Earth5R’s philosophy of the 5R’s and in-depth explanation of each of the 5 R’s. Recycling was explained in detail and the terms Upcycling and Downcycling were introduced to them. As a backdrop, they were also told about waste segregation and its importance for Upcycling.
After the info session, the team conducted a workshop where the children were taught how to make paper bags.
These kids needed to be instructed only once and then got very involved and started thinking creatively about how handles could be attached to the bags and how different designs that could be made to make them look attractive.
The most beautiful moment of this activity was that children who were not seated in the room at the beginning of the activity came by the door with their newspaper and started trying to make the paper bags.
They were initially shy but the team finally convinced to come in and join the others.
Another important outcome of the activity was that the children started to come up with new uses of paper by themselves. Vignesh, a standard 8th student, made an envelope out of the newspaper while Shalini tried to make a sweet box.
Thre was a clear indication that Earth5R team had inspired the children to think differently and find new ways to upcycle.
According to a report, by the Hindu, dated December 21, 2013, the population living in urban slums in Karnataka has risen from 14.02 lakh to 32.91 lakh in a decade. From 2001 to 2013 there has been a rise in total slum population from 7.8 % to 13.9 %.
21.5% population of Bangalore district lives in a slum. Every fifth person in the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) limits lives in a slum.
This means that the solid waste production by these areas has also multiplied many times over and community activities like this, one slum at a time, can change the way these people look at their waste forever.
Earth5R team hopes to do many more activities in the same slum and start a movement that will spread all over Bangalore.
-Report by Smriti Tiwari. Graphic Design by Pratik Dhamapurkar & Raghunath Sarfare