How often do we use the skills we acquire in our academic education to give back to the society? Take a cue from 22-year-old Rhea Gupta, a graduate from the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Bengaluru. The youngster, who specialised in industrial design, didn’t take up a high-paying corporate job. Instead, she decided to use her skills to improve the lives of others.
It was with this aim that Gupta developed the ‘Upcycled Cement Holdall’.
When she was in college, Gupta chose to do her primary research for a class on “upcycling” at construction sites, The Better India reported. What caught her eye among the litter at these sites were plastic bags that cement came in.
Gupta questioned the environmental ramifications of this waste, especially since these bags are made of a hardy variety of plastic – polypropylene, making them non-biodegradable.
She noticed that it was mostly the smaller building sites that were at risk of bearing environmental hazards, as larger sites like industries, could more efficiently treat their waste.
But what struck Gupta beyond the environmental hazards was the plight of the migrant labourers working at the sites.
Gupta told The Better India that 90 percent of the labour force at the sites were internal migrants. The poor pay did not allow these people to afford comfortable housing, with most, living on the hazardous sites. Most slept on thin coir mats, spread across rough surfaces.
This prompted Gupta to design comfortable bedding for these workers. Gupta’s late paternal grandfather, Shivchand Ramsarup Gupta’s mattress, a “holdall”, from his days as a freedom fighter, inspired her to create an ergonomic piece of furniture. She told The Better India:
“I have only seen remains of his (my grandfather’s) things… When I was talking to my father, he told to have a look at the mattress Dadaji used, and that’s when I saw his holdall, and the idea struck me!”
Upcycling is the process of reusing waste material in a way such that you create a new product of better quality than the original. Upcycling a product reduces waste generation.
According to The Better India, a holdall is a “large rectangular bag with handles and a shoulder strap, used for carrying clothes and other personal belongings.”
Gupta’s ‘upcycled cement holdall’ is the result of four or more used cement bags stitched together using the thread these bags are made of. The product can be used as a mattress, and can also be rolled up and carried around.
The mattress is six feet in length, and 3 feet in breadth, and held together by straps which can be worn, much like a backpack.
Gupta told The Better India:
“The Upcycled Hold-all is designed for that section of the economy that have unsanctioned, or no homes at all. It is designed for those who work hard through long, unregulated working hours, and are not even promised a carefree, comfortable and restful sleep at night. It is designed for the migrant labor force of India.”
What next for Gupta? The young innovator is currently looking out for organisations that will help her reach out to more migrant workers across the country. Gupta feels that helping the economically challenged is her true calling. She tells The Better India, “I do not want to work with the big corporates. Designing their products is not what I want to do. I want to serve people in the villages, those who need it the most.”
Story extracted from The Quint.