Art Made from Waste

Conserve India was founded in 1998 as a way to reduce Delhi's growing waste problem, and as a method of poverty alleviation by empowering rag pickers through employment and social capital.

Conserve India started as a fledgling recycling project but quickly adapted to confront the biggest challenge it was facing; what to do with the thousands of plastic bags that could not be composted or recycled locally.

After much experimentation, the Conserve team hit upon the idea of not recycling, but up-cycling, by washing, drying, and pressing the bags into sheets. Handmade Recycled Plastic (HRP) was born and designs for handbags, wallets, shoes and belts quickly came flooding in. The challenge was obvious: Use high fashion to support better lives for the poorest and a cleaner environment for all.

Today, Conserve India employs and trains people from Delhi's most disadvantaged communities. Once the waste bags are turned into products, they are sold for profits which are spent on welfare programs. Conserve India ensures that their employees are paid a fair wage and are given access to education and health care. We offer training to our workers to promote job mobility within our organization, from manufacturing to working in the head office.

Due to the lack of social capital made available to this community, Conserve India has established a school for the children of the employees. 75 children attend the school and it is run by subsidised school fees and donations. Beyond training and education, we also provide healthcare to our employees and their children through a mobile van that delivers much needed medical supplies and services.

In order to continue funding our programs for our employees, Conserve India held an art exhibition that explored the juxtaposing theme of art, waste, the environment, and its collaboration. The profits from selling the artwork went towards funding welfare programs.

Anita A., India