Every month, every home throws away a lot of glass bottles. These include empty booze bottles, juice bottles, and all the other pretty packed food and home decor items. We use them and then throw away, or at most, we put a money plant in them to reuse them. Even so, we end up dispatching a huge amount of glass waste to dumps over the course of a lifetime.
According to Green Sutra research, India discards 3 million tonnes of glass each year. Only about 45 percent of this gets reused in one or more ways, with the remainder going to the trash yard.
But what can be done? We can segregate wet and dry garbage, but what can be done best with a glass bottle? Glass bottles are useless to the majority of us. But they are keepsakes for this 35 year old from Kerala.
Renjini Thampi moved from Dubai to India after her marriage in 2015, and she recognized an opportunity to create art & Home Decor Items out of wasted glass.
When she lived in Dubai, she never thought about where all the trash went. But when she shifted back to India and saw how much trash was being wasted, she thought, “Why not use it to make something cool?”.
Since that day she has turned more than 21,000 bottles of glass into home decor items and furniture and decided to share her work through her social media page on Instagram called Vapasee. Some of these are lamps, wall hangings, side table decorations, clocks, boxes, and more.
What Became The Change?
Renjini spent her youth in India, Kochi, and she returned there after her marriage. She was always interested in art and crafts as a youngster, but she had no idea that this would one day become her identity.
“I was interested in art and drawing even when I was a child. I was taught how to paint, but I mostly did it for fun back then. And choose to do my education in buisness but ended up professing in airline and media.”
When she came back to India, she thought it would be a nice break from work. As she chose to follow her interest in art.
Her spouse, a Sound designer and her art-loving family was also influential in reinstilling her interest in crafts and art.
“When I got married, I moved into a house where many people liked different kinds of art. I got a lot of support from my husband, who is also an artist.
Back in Dubai, though, things were very different. Back then she was working from 9 to 5 and Not many people around her were talking about art as a profession.
When she came to India, she started painting again, she invested her time in developing skills in her hobby. She tried to bring together people who liked the art by putting on shows of her drawings. “When I first started drawing, I thought to myself, Why not put them on display in galleries?” she says.
Renjini’s search for a reason for her art also made her appreciate the value of trash. “We used to go to scrap sellers so that my husband could find old instruments or other things he needed for his sound studio. “This is when I saw so much trash lying around with no use at the moment but a lot of scope for use.”
Her creative side came out, and she chose to use the huge amount of broken glass that was lying around at scrap sellers to make Home Decor Items.
The scrap hunters got a lot of things that could be sold for some return like copper and other materials. But some of the trash was absolutely of no use, Those things would just be thrown away. One of them was glass.
She got it for free from the people who sell scrap. She also started to collect things like tyre rims, glass, tin cans and buckets.”
Renjini would use the trash she gathered to make things to decorate her home and the homes of her friends.
“No one for the first look could say that these home decor items are made from trash. I would make them small pieces of home art, tables, and main pieces.
They not only liked these upcycled home decor items but also advised her to turn this hobby into a profession. She took the advice seriously and gradually started taking orders from family and friends who wanted to redecorate their houses.
Sustainable, re-used, and good for the environment
Soon, Renjini started getting more orders, so in 2021, she started her own brand called Vapasee where she made mindblowing Home Decor Items.
“The trip to Vapasee was absolutely unplanned and organic. I was happy to just follow my interest in art-making, I was creating beautiful Home Decor Items out of scrap that would otherwise end up damaging the environment and this made me feel great.
It was in 2020 when she met a group called Climate Collective. This group promotes healthy business and wants people to do something about climate change.
“I got involved in the initiative of Climate Collective in Kochi. It was a competition for women entrepreneurs about climate change. It was for people like us who wanted to start a business that was good for the environment. They saw the potential in my work and helped me make my business plan more profitable and have a bigger effect on the world by keeping more glass bottles out of landfills.
Her mentor told her to apply for IIM-Bengaluru’s course to help startups grow. She applied and was chosen. “Before the pre-incubation, I was not very confident and kept thinking that I was just lucky. But when I was chosen, I saw how much potential there was for upcycled goods.” she says, adding that IIM-Bengaluru taught her everything she needed to know about the business.
Trash To Aesthetic Home Decor Items
Renjini makes a variety of bowls, centerpieces, tables, lamps, and other home decor items using the skills of Bottles Upcycle with Vapasee. She says that by upcycling glass bottles into Home Decor Items, she has kept more than 21,000 of them from going to waste.
This woman entrepreneur gets the glass from people who sell scrap and from people who organize collection runs. During these drives, she asks people to bring her their used glass bottles.
“Working with glass can be risky because it takes a long time to learn the whole process. I went to see a lot of people who worked with glass and tried to learn the art. The material is very fragile, and it was hard to figure out how hot glass can get before it breaks or melts. But through trial and error and with the help of some experts in the field, I can now make most of my goods without any problems.”
She has also used more than 5,000 coconut shells, more than 500 kg of metal trash and over 800 kg of wood to make Home Decor Items and art. So far, she has sold more than 5,000 of these home decor items.
Most of Renjini’s goods can be bought through her official Instagram account and websites like Amazon, Magikelf, Brown Living, Loopify, Onegreen, Refash, etc. Soon, the company’s website will also be up and running.
“The kind of praise I got for my art & Home Decor Items made me want to keep doing it. I’ve never been very sure of my work, but IIM-Bengaluru gave me the faith I needed to keep going. The word Vapasee comes from the Hindi term vapsi, meaning “to come back.” The idea is that the trash that one person throws away ends up in another person’s home after we repurpose it. We are trying to make use of the waste and live a sustainable life.”
If you loved reading this story, you could also read Entrepreneur Earns Rs 2 Lakh/Month By Making Eco-Friendly Products; Empowers Local Artisans
Image Source – Instagram
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