This Pune-based Start-up is Turning Potato Chips Packets into Handbags

Waste is the future. Brands are now trying to make the most of this previously overlooked resource by turning it into new, highly desirable products. For example, the Indian start-up EcoKaari collects all kinds of plastic packaging to create unique handbags using traditional techniques.

Combining environmental awareness with traditional craftsmanship – that is the challenge Nandan Bhat, founder of the start-up EcoKaari based in Pune, India, has set himself. EcoKaari collects waste destined to pollute the land and oceans and turns it into handbags of all kinds. This social enterprise is a contraction of the words “eco” for “ecological” and “kaari” for “kaarigar”, which Means “craftsman” or “craftsman”, and aims to protect the environment by recycling waste while highlighting the work of Indian artisans, including women and young people from humble backgrounds.

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“Our name represents the relationship between artisans and the environment, and both are interconnected and interdependent. India’s heritage of craftsmanship has constantly drawn inspiration from the environment, and Mother Earth has always been an integral part of our lives. Traditionally, our craft techniques have always believed in upcycling, material optimization and waste minimization,” the brand’s e-store says.

To achieve this, the start-up has partnered with waste collection organizations and retailers to collect the materials of its choice. This waste, a (far too) inexhaustible resource, also comes from public donations, be it plastic bags or wrappers of cookies, potato chips, instant noodles or laundry detergent, wrapping paper or even old audio and video cassettes. Everything is then sanitized and dried, then manually cut into strips before being upcycled, spun and woven using traditional tools including the charkha, a type of Indian spinning wheel. Then all that remains is to create bags and other branded products from these freshly woven fabrics.

From handbags to wallets, tote bags and book covers, all of the products in the brand’s e-store – most of which have sold out, victims of their success – have been handcrafted by artisans from all manner of waste. This is part of a real environmental and social commitment that also allows many artisans to practice their skills in optimal conditions. In line with its philosophy, EcoKaari is also committed to improving the life cycle of its products, repairing them free of charge and taking back its bags at the end of their life cycle to put them back into the production cycle or to dispose of them responsibly.

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In an interview with Business Insider India, Nandan Bhat said the brand has recycled nearly 1.7 million plastic bags and packaging items in one year and this could increase to more than 4.7 million items in the next fiscal year.

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