As we face environmental challenges across the world especially when our waste is choking the landfills, we have many companies, social enterprises and even individuals who are upcycling different waste material into sustainable products. Recently I got a chance to meet Gautam Malik a Gurgaon based social entrepreneur who launched a startup some years back Jaggery Bags which uses old car seat belts to make beautiful bags. I met Gautam during a regional huddle of Acumen Fellows in New Delhi recently.
Gautam’s tryst with upcycling plastic bags began in New York where he was studying film and media in 2001. After almost 13 years Gautam decided to start social enterprise Jaggery Bags with the active support of his wife, a conservation architect and mother who is a retired Physics professor. Jaggery Bags is converting old car seat belts into bags as they have a team of dedicated workers who do this work. Seat belt material in spite of being very strong used to go to landfills, but Gautam’s intervention has changed this and during last several years he has converted almost 10,000 meters of seat belts into bags which are selling in the market efficiently. His work has impacted 24000 people, created 1800 jobs for undeserved community members and diverted around 1500 tons aggregate waste going to landfills.
During my long conversation with Gautam on the sidelines of Acumen fellows meeting, he told me that people were recycling plastic waste and other stuff, but a strong material of seat belts was going to landfills and an idea stuck in his mind to utilize this material for making bags. Gautam also wants to use old army truck material , canvas and parachute material to make some good products and he is exploring that idea and we had a long discussion on that as well and we even decided to collaborate for starting this work in Srinagar Kashmir as well. Gautam is excited to work in J&K as well. In fact he has already used canvas , parachute and other material used by defence forces to make bags but now Jaggery Bags wants to use this material on a large scale and he is now exploring to reach out to Indian Army and Airforce as well.
Gautam’s social enterprise Jaggery Bags startup has today recycled more than 10,000 meters of car seat belts, and 6000 plus meters of cargo belts from landfills in Delhi/NCR. This project has international customers in US, Australia, Japan, Italy, France and Switzerland. This startup has already been accepted to the World Economic Forum’s Catalyst 2030 for being a prominent part of the modern-day online community of impact makers. Gautam’s Dr. Usha Malik and wife, Bhavna have been his great supporters, he told me.
The Jaggery Bags is not only making consumers aware about sustainability but its work is also empowering marginalized and disadvantaged communities. Women and men from low income groups are involved with Jaggery Bags who manufacture sustainable bags and other accessories. This work not only transforms fashion into activism by making individuals change their lifestyle and living. Through Jaggery, Gautam is fully dedicated to create a positive change by generating circular jobs and empowering underserved communities in India
Recycled material used by car industry
The awareness to use non- biodegradable waste and recycled material is gaining momentum across the world. The car manufacturers are making efforts to include more recycled materials in the construction of their new models. Czech car manufacturing company Skoda has recently introduced seat covers made from wool and recycled disposable bottles . The company is working with suppliers and the scientific community on various innovative materials that will then be used in mass production. The company has combined wool with recycled polyester from disposable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. To create the fabric, bottles are crushed, melted and then turned into granules. These granules are then used to make a yarn, which is the basis for this particularly strong fabric. Skoda worked jointly with its Czech supplier Sage Automotive Interiors on this project and developed innovative materials that are then used in car production. This includes the material made from plastic bottles. The same company, in collaboration with the Technical University of Liberec (TUL), is also developing fabrics with special fibers that function as seat heaters and improve comfort, as well as special reflective threads.In the future, the brand wants to boost its investment in recyclable materials, in accordance with its suppliers. Skoda’s raw material procurement processes will place even more emphasis on the circular economy.
Recycle and reduce pressure on landfills
More and more companies are using recycled goods now. This helps to reduce the need for landfill and more costly forms of disposal. Recycling also reduces the need for extracting (mining, quarrying and logging), refining and processing raw materials all of which create substantial air and water pollution. This helps to save energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping to tackle climate change. Recycling helps reduce pressure on landfills.
Recycling is good for our earth in a sense, we are using old and waste products that are of no use and then converting them back into useful and sustainable products. Since we are saving resources and are sending less trash to the landfills, it helps in reducing air and water pollution as well. As the population is increasing with each passing day the amount of waste produced is increasing in huge numbers. The more the waste production, the more is the amount of space required to dump it in landfills. We need to understand that the space available on earth is very limited, and we cannot afford to send our waste to landfills in huge numbers. Our only landfill site in Srinagar at Achan Saidapora is choked and Govt is facing challenges even to acquire 50 acres of land to set up a sanitary landfill site. The entire downtown is stinking as bad smell emitting from Achan Saidapora has made lives of people miserable not only in Saidapora or Eid Gah areas but this smell is now felt even in Buchpora or Lalbazar areas of Srinagar’s downtown.
The growing population needs space to live and also to grow what they eat by means of agriculture. If all this space were to be taken up by landfill sites and garbage collection points the survival of mankind on this planet would be really miserable. Recycling is the only way out as it solves this problem as a lesser amount of wastes is dumped in landfills and some valuable space is saved. During the last one decade or more the incinerators are now being used to reduce the waste in landfills, but most of these incinerators work by waste burning and during this process we are also causing severe air pollution as well.
By preventing metric tons of waste going into landfills, Jaggery group is committed to building a more sustainable future. Driven by his belief in the power of design and creative innovation, Gautam is striving to bring together environmental consciousness and social responsibility and is redefining the boundaries of sustainable design, offering unique products that are both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally conscious.