Solving the plastic waste crisis through upcycling

“Plastic is one of the biggest contributors to pollution in the modern world, and we felt that was something we needed to address. A lot of PPE suits were being produced daily, especially in a time when the COVID was at its peak,” shares Vanshika Bansal (19), President of Enactus, Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies (SSCBS). Hoping to tackle the problem of plastic waste, the Enactus team at SSCBS started the project Basera in April 2020, through which they reuse waste discarded by PPE manufacturers and create utilitarian products such as mats and bags.

The Basera project, whose name translates to housing or shelter in English, has partnered with two homeless shelters in Rohini and Connaught Place. Apart from promoting the Indian government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative by making homemade products, this project also instills self-sufficiency and economic resilience in the women residing in these shelters. Citing research conducted by the SSCBS Enactus team before the launch of this project, Bansal shares that around one in 10 people in Delhi are homeless. “The stories of residents of homeless shelters moved us deeply,” she adds.

Currently, about 10 women are working as entrepreneurs under this project. “We are trying to sustain our project. After teaching these women these skills, we connect them directly with suppliers to help them become self-sufficient,” says Anshaj Gupta (19), a second-year student from SSCBS, who is currently a project manager at Basera.

cardboard furniture made for the Project.

Don’t throw it away yet
Project Basera’s flagship product is a versatile, recycled and eco-friendly mat made from waste from factories producing PPE suits. These mats can also be used as mattresses or yoga mats. “Previously, with so much scrap being produced, there was no choice [for the manufacturer] but to burn plastic waste. Now with Basera we have found a viable and unique alternative [for them]Bansal shares.

The women who make these products receive about 70% of the income for each product sold. Enactus reinvests the remaining amount into the project and also uses the money to further develop the homeless shelters they work with.

Innovate, elevate and inform
The mats are usually sold at various yoga and dance centers around Delhi-NCR. Using innovation and creativity, Basera has expanded its product line to also incorporate eco-friendly handbags. Along with this, they also create sturdy cardboard furniture.

The team also runs several campaigns for Resident Wellness Associations across the city. “We talk to citizens about the need to manage plastic waste and offer our products as alternatives,” adds Gupta. Other team initiatives include education, financial literacy and menstrual hygiene campaigns for women and children residing in these shelters.

Speaking of the success of this project, Gupta concludes: “The last time I visited the shelter, one of our entrepreneurs mentioned how Basera had helped her finance her son’s wedding. It was amazing to have been a small part of such an important time in her life.

Bryce K. Locke