“Conserve India was founded in 1998 to address the growing waste problem in Delhi and to fight poverty by empowering ragpickers through employment and social investment.

“Conserve India began as a simple waste recycling project but quickly adapted to meet the most important challenge it faced: what to do with the thousands of plastic bags that could not be composted or recycled locally?

After many attempts, the Conserve team came up with the idea not to recycle them, but to reuse them after cleaning, drying, and pressing them into sheets. Handmade Recycled Plastic (HRP) was born, and soon multiple designs for handbags, wallets, shoes and belts followed. The challenge was obvious: to use fashion to improve both the living conditions of the poorest and the cleanliness of the environment for all.

Today, Conserve India employs and trains hundreds of people from the most disadvantaged communities in Delhi. Once the used bags are transformed into fashion accessories, they are sold and the profits invested in social assistance programs.

Conserve India employees receive a fair wage and have access to education and medical care. We offer training to our workers in order to provide an evolution within our organization, from the factory to the head office.

To address the lack of social capital available to this community, Conserve India created a school for employees’ children. 75 children attend the school. It operates on subsidized school fees and donations. In addition to training and education, we provide medical care to employees and their children with a van that carries the medical supplies and services they need.

To fund our employee programs, Conserve India organized an exhibition that explored the theme of the interaction between art, waste and the environment. Proceeds from the sale of the artworks were used to fund social assistance programs.

Anita Ahuja