Since 2002, Conserve, a non-profit organisation, has been assisting the marginalised urban poor of Delhi through the development of a model that utilises urban plastic waste to produce high fashion products. To help clean up the urban environment while providing income for the urban poor, Conserve has trained people from the urban slums to process waste into recycled sheets.
More than 300 rag-pickers work for the organisation, collecting plastic rags from neighbourhood streets all over Delhi. The rags are washed, hung to dry and sorted according to colour - some locations processing about 5,000 plastic bags a day. The waste is then pressed into thicker, durable material known as Handmade Recycled Plastic (HRP), which is used to make funky and fashionable handbags and accessories - an eco-friendly alternative to leather.
All the money Conserve makes is put back into the organisation's development work. Co-founders, Anita and Shalabh Ahuja, are passionate about conservation and making a sustainable difference to people’s lives.