Re-use with upcycle artz

Rakesh Kumar, an environment enthusiast, has a  solution for our cluttered life: ‘free cycling’, which is a relatively new concept in the city

Published: 14th November 2016 10:10 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th November 2016 02:58 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Growing heaps of garbage in dump yards and unsegregated waste have become a major problem leading to lack of space in landfills. As more people are turning to methods that reduce waste, one such concept that cuts down on the need to manufacture new goods, and increase the usage of used items is ‘free cycling’. Though there are few active groups in India, the concept hasn’t caught up in the city yet.

Bringing the concept alive, Rakesh Kumar, founder of Upcycle Artz and a person with disability will curate a Freecycle event at Besant Nagar this weekend. CE chats with the ‘craftepreuneur’ to know more about the concept, his interest in conserving the environment, art and more.

Sunish P Surendran

Even as a kid, Rakesh was inclined towards art, and says that painting was his favourite hobby in school. “I used to paint a lot and I started painting when I was in class 5. There have been a few corporates that have bought my art pieces, which I did while I was in school,” shares the 24-year-old.

Establishing a venture that deals with crafts was natural for an art-struck Rakesh who set up Upcycle Artz in March 2016. “Prior to this, I used to play with materials that were unused at home or were just thrown out. I started using newspapers and plastic bottles to create products that can be re-used,” he says pointing to vividly coloured coasters, baskets and pen holders made out of cardboard and newspapers.

“We usually don’t use these newspapers after a day. So, my aim was to do something useful with them. With plastic bottles, I made pen holders and have also made dolls using both newspaper and plastic. My clients loved them,” he smiles. 

An environment enthusiast, Rakesh says that non-biodegradable waste causes a lot of harm and it was a conscious decision to combine art and his love for nature together. Talking about ‘freecycle’, he says that the idea is very popular in foreign countries but needs awareness in cities in India as well. “The concept is about a person/group passing on unwanted products (books, CDs, silverware etc) for free, to another person/group who is in need of the item. Instead of discarding what one considers waste, it can be of use to another person,” he explains. 

But, on one condition. The products need to be in usable condition unless it’s an antique! Remember this isn’t a place for you to dump things that you no longer need, but a place that promotes environmental sustainability and reuse. “It also brings people together and for the morning walkers in Bessie this weekend, I am sure they will be intrigued! I am looking forward to it,” he says.

For now, the event has garnered lukewarm response and Rakesh avers that this might be the first step towards organising more events that promote sustainability. “We have had just eight people register. People can come on the day of the event and contribute/pick products that they need or want to give away – for free,” he says.

So, what other materials does he want to experiment with, for his upcycle venture? “I am having discussions with certain people on upcycling tags, medals and jerseys that are provided during marathons and other runs,” he says. “I would also like to upcycle used batteries… something almost most of us use every day, and they cause a lot of harm to the environment. I have more ideas which I plan to implement slowly. For now, I am happy with what I do and want to master and succeed in it.” Rakesh also conducts free craft workshops at Elliot’s Beach on Sunday.

Free Cycle will take place at Besant Nagar Beach Road on Nov 20, 6:30 am onwards. For details, visit:


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