Unless you’ve been living under a rock (which actually is a super sustainable living practice if you think about it), the dismal condition of waste management in the country will come as no surprise. According to YourStory, urban India produces nearly 48 million tonnes of solid waste in just one year. Only a fraction of that is recycled and the rest is discarded, resulting in alarmingly high levels of waste making its way towards landfills that have a limited capacity themselves.
It is in such a troubling situation that more and more people have turned towards upcycling. In 2016, Shailaja Rangarajan founded Rimagined, a platform that sells upcycled products across all categories such as furniture, jewellery, clothes, and home decor, among others. Born out of the need of the hour, to promote conscious consumption and reduce the amount of waste generated, Rimagined skillfully reuses, recycles, and restores products that would otherwise be cast away. Urban homes usually generate a large amount of solid waste thanks to the excessive consumer-driven lifestyle most urban Indians thrive on. Practising segregation at home is also minimal, though it is catching up with rising levels of awareness and simply the dire need for it. “Segregation is one step in addressing the waste we generate. But I realised we need to take a step back and figure out ways to ensure we don’t keep dumping stuff, owing to our lifestyle of excessive consumption,” Shailaha told YourStory.
It was while volunteering with Solid Waste Management (SWM) in Whitefield, Bengaluru, that 40-year-old Shailaja realised the extent of our waste crises and the urgent need to do something about it. Upcycling seemed to her the most sustainable way ahead and Rimagined is based on the process of recycling usable waste by rescuing it before it ends up in landfills and creating rather interesting but very practical everyday use products out of it.
The advantage of this is twofold – conscious consumerism, and the generation of livelihood for poor women across the country. With great importance placed on creating gainful employment for women in need, Reimagined upholds its reputation as a truly evolved platform that is constantly working for the good of society at large. They sell both Rimagined label products and creations born out of collaborations with multiple designers and producers who share their views on sustainability and consumerism. The products created under their own label are made by groups of women spread across the country forming a network of centres that help them train, design, and create a wide range of upcycled products. This helps elevate these women’s positions in a myriad of ways and saves them from financial dependence and potential figurative handicap.
Upcycling is an extensive process of sourcing the waste materials, turning it into usable raw materials, and designing and creating the final product, all the while maintaining high standards of quality and durability. This means that the end result, though not very expensive, can also not be very cheap considering all the work that goes into it, contrary to popular belief about recycled products. “People are surprised when they see the upcycled products. But they expect them to be priced way below the products made from virgin resources. They don’t understand the effort that goes into this kind of transformation,” said Shailaja. Her collaborations with Indian designers also ensure they promote Indian art sensibilities and an appreciation for Indian culture and heritage.
You can support them by buying Rimagined and making environmentally-responsible choices, and if that’s not enough, they offer the opportunity to be their brand ambassador and become a flag bearer for all things upcycled.
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