Anita Ahuja – Ragpicking And Recycling With A Difference

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Who: Anita Ahuja

Education: BA from Delhi University; MA from Delhi University

When Anita Ahuja and her husband, Shalabh, decided to dive into the world of waste management, they didn’t realise what a huge task they had taken on. Anita, who was born and brought up in Delhi, was shocked at the lack of waste management in India. She and Shalabh started Conserve India in order to find solutions for this crisis.

The Ahuja’s decided that they needed tackle the issue in two ways – first, they had to make sure that people recycled. The second, they had to ensure that recycling and rag picking created jobs for people because otherwise, no one would be interested in it.

Anita said that they focused on three things the most – the people, the planet and the products.

They came up with an idea for all the plastic that they found. They decided to melt it down and make it into sheets. These sheets would then be used to create jewellery.

This ensured that they were creating jobs on two different levels. They had rag-pickers who would collect the plastic and other waste materials and bring it to the manufacturers, and they also had other workers who would melt it down and use it to make all new products. The money from the sales of these items would go towards social welfare projects, a health clinic for the Conserve India employees, and loans for their employees to start their own small businesses.

Handmade recycled plastic products have become more popular and Conserve India have expanded their range. You can buy footwear, belts, handbags and even lamp shades made out of plastic!

The Ahuja’s didn’t stop their community building there. They realised that while their parents were out working, the children in the slums were left on their own and were often in danger because of that. Anita says that this realisation inspired them to start a school for the kids in the area.

Conserve India has grown by leaps and bounds since Anita and her husband began the organisation. In Anita’s words, “Waste was all they had. We taught them how to use waste as a resource and earn a sustainable living”.

Long Story Short

  • Anita Ahuja and her husband, Shalabh, started Conserve India to solve the waste management issue in India
  • They realised that the only way to keep it going was to create jobs and make recycling sustainable
  • They built a community of rag pickers and manufacturers and created jobs for them
  • They realised that the best way to reuse the plastic they collected was to melt it down into sheets and then make jewellery and other products with it
  • They sell these products and use the money to build up the community
  • The Ahujas also started a school for the underprivileged kids within the community
  • With the help of the Ahujas, there have been more jobs and a rise in employment rates
  • Conserve India has also had a big effect on the amount of plastic being recycled and reused.
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