Humanity is leaving behind a long trail of non-biodegradable plastic waste in its wake. This waste is suffocating animals, smothering marine life, and leeching toxins into the water we all need. Even while efforts are on to substitute plastic with other biodegradable materials, what is to be done about the millions of tons of plastic already in the ecosystem?
Environmentalist and social entrepreneur Amita Deshpande struggled with this question, along with the problem of rural unemployment that she observed all around the periphery of her hometown of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Inspired by the humble charkha (spindle) used to weave cloth from cotton in Indian villages, she found a way to convert old discarded plastic waste to useful lifestyle items.
Her endeavour, called reCharkha, not only helps upcycle plastic waste but also gives a livelihood to dozens of tribal youth and women in two villages in western India. The brand’s products – ranging from laptop bags to home décor items – have now found a long list of celebrity customers in India and Europe.
eShe TV‘s Aekta Kapoor catches up with reCharkha’s founder and director Amita Deshpande in Pune, along with Ashwini Joshi, business development manager based in Netherlands, about the problem of plastic waste, their innovative solution, and how it has changed the lives of the women artisans who are now earning a sustainable livelihood.
Watch the video here.
An IT engineer with a Master’s in sustainability from Purdue University, Amita has worked extensively in sustainable development and corporate social responsibility in the US and India. She founded the nonprofit Aarohana EcoSocial in 2013 to upcycle waste plastic for making upcycled-handwoven products. It later led to the formation of reCharkha in 2020.
For her part, Ashwini is a post-graduate in computer science with decades of experience as a techie behind her, both in India and the US. Now based in Eindhoven, Netherlands, she represents reCharkha’s interests in Europe, and has been working towards expanding the sales and funding opportunities there.
This conversation is also available as a podcast.