“A couple of years ago, I read an article that underlined the fact that there is no immediate solution to the increasing pile of clothes in the ecosystem.
Almost every day, there is a new store or an online site coming up selling cheaper clothes. If the entire population buys even one piece of clothing each, the waste generated is huge,” says Swapnil Joshi, an Engineer, MBA from Pune and recipient of the young entrepreneur award by IIT Bombay and founder of the unique venture Eco Regain.
“Much like the plastic, thermocol, e-waste and other products that are plaguing our eco-system, cloth based material is also proving to be hazardous since it lives on in the natural cycle and sees no end.”
Everyone talks about the dangers of products like plastics and ignore the clothes we wear that eventually get dumped into river bodies or landfills. No one thinks about recycling them, finding a new use for old clothes. Turning it into a pillow or adding it to a quilt and putting a label from somewhere similar to GB Labels and marking it as an expression of your creativity might help to change the way we think about our old clothes.
The entire world today dumps their discarded clothes in India increasing our pressure to deal with the reluctant solid pollution.
To remedy this scenario, we came up with this idea in August 2016 in an attempt to stop newer products coming into the eco-system by making the available resources reusable. This would in turn further reduce the wastage and pollution” adds Joshi.
So, What does Eco-Regain do?
Started as a social initiative, this enterprise turned into a venture when the founder started employing several under-privileged women to make products out of old clothes empowered by the requisite training.
This company now has an online presence accepts old clothes (offering Rs 8/kg to the donor) and sells new items like cloth bags, rugs, blankets, door mats, carpets, bedsheets and more made by workers based at Pune and Panipat.
The amount that one receives on donating the old clothes is then discounted against the final prices of the product one buys.
The clothes are segregated into reusable and scrap categories and are then sent to workers employed in Pune and Panipat respectively.
Some of the clothes are also donated by NGO’s that have clothes in bulk. They are refurbished or made into an entirely different product.
They also provide every customer with a certification and a bag of seeds in appreciation for supporting their cause and helping them employ those in need.
For the uninitiated, Panipat is home to many small, big and private mills and recycling hubs which take discarded clothes from Western countries and convert them into recycled cloth products. The recycling industry employs more than 15,000 people, skilled and unskilled. Majority of the employees are women who depend on this sector for their livelihood.
Speaking to Pune365, Joshi says, “We initially faced problems in convincing people to donate the clothes free of cost and have faith in our mission.
Eventually, in March 2017, I started accepting old clothes and sold the products produced by the workers in Panipat and all for a price.
Employees with their certificates after successfully completing their training session.“Our working space was in a closed complex and hence not many people knew about us. We then started campaigning for our initiatives in housing societies, collaborated with NGOs like SWAHAL, orphanages of HIV infected patients and other complexes which then yielded positive results.
“We also tied up with Pune Municipal Corporation’s Light house initiative that gives training and employment to people of the low-income group and others in need. These groups then started producing bags for us which was made available for sale.
Within four months of setting up our warehouse, we have managed to collect 2000kgs of old clothes and have more than 500 customers who buy our products and sell us their discarded clothes..
“We are able to complete the entire cycle of procuring old products and making reusable new products by employing several needy people in Pune and Panipat. This is the need of the hour and critical for the environment.
As of now this is run like a normal business venture since a major part of the sales revenue goes into paying salaries and providing for advanced training and equipment to the workers across the country,” adds Joshi.
Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @KaurKaur18
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