Make a style statement – with recycled polythene bags

It’s hardly getting as much attention as it should be at the fashion week, what with models, designers and the who’s who of India’s entertainment industry around. But Anita Ahuja’s store ‘Conserve’, with its colourful and trendy bags made out of recycled plastic, is surely making its presence felt.

Nestling close to the scores of stores of fashion gurus at the venue of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW), which shows off their glitzy designer collection, ‘Conserve’ has bags, slippers and jewellery in a variety of colours and shapes lining up its shelves.

Conserve is an NGO formed in 1998 to help the marginalized urban poor through the development of a model that utilises plastic, polythene bags, to produce fashionable accessories.

The USP of these products is that they are water resistant, stain resistant and have a long shelf life.

“This, while recycling waste and helping the environment, also provides income to the poor,” said Ahuja, the woman who conceptualized Conserve.

The factory where processing of plastic waste takes place is in east Delhi’s Patparganj area. And the processed material which is finally woven into fashionable items is called handmade recycled plastic (HRP).

“HRP has a natural feel, texture and colour, which gives the product a unique attractive appearance and feel. It’s amazing how a used and ugly polythene bag can be converted into a beautiful hand bag, without the use of any artificial dyes,” Ruchika Whorra, a merchandiser who works with ‘Conserve’, told IANS.

With the support of the Asian Development Bank, Ahuja and her team works on projects to generate income, through the production of this material, for the less advantaged communities in Delhi.

This is the first attempt of Conserve to market and sell its products in India through the WIFW.

“People here don’t value such products, which are made out of recycled waste products simply because they don’t understand its value, not as much as abroad. But now we feel that things are changing,” Whorra said.

“One can see a lot of products such as lamps and pen stands made of recycled paper in the stores. Hence we decided that this is a good time to enter the Indian market.”

A wide range of products, from hand bags – day bags, beach bags and evening bags – to slippers, from funky jewellery to pen stands, from table mats to cushion covers, even posters, are available under this roof.

These are very conveniently priced as well. One can pick up any item and shell out anything between Rs.300 and Rs.3,000.

Designed by Indian and international designers, the products have got a good response abroad.

“We have participated in the Paris fashion week and in the Singapore exhibition and have received a good response. We export our items to America, parts of Europe and Australia,” Whorra said.

“After the WIFW, we will participate in an exhibition in Paris this month and then in the Fashion Excess Fair in Hong Kong from Oct 3 to 5.”

The response at WIFW is, however, not as enthusiastic as was expected.

“We have got two orders as of now. There have been a couple of enquiries as well. It is not a very enthusiastic response but considering the fact that this is our first attempt in India, it is good,” Whorra said.

All said and done, team Conserve has the big picture in mind, so such things as not receiving a very hyped response doesn’t dishearten it.

“Recycling plastic bags in this manner is a motivation to dispose them of correctly. It is not a whole solution and should not be accepted as an endorsement for continued use of plastic bags.

“They are an environmental nuisance and hopefully one day their need will no longer be felt. But until then, all efforts must be taken so that these visual eye sores are collected from the garbage dumps and recycled appropriately,” Ahuja said.

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