From the garbage you see dumped in your neighbourhood to social media videos you witness of waste washed up on the shores—the predominant material common to both is plastic. According to the State of India’s Environment 2022 report published by the Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi produces at least 689.8 tonnes of plastic waste per day, most of which is difficult to recycle and thus, has harmful effects on the environment. In August 2021, the Centre announced a ban on use of single-use plastic, following a notification from the Central Pollution Control Board that this will take effect from July 1. Even prior to the government’s thoughtful move, many conscious citizens had been working on ways to create awareness of the catastrophic effect of plastic. A venture that has been part of this movement is Minus Degre—a Saket-based start-up founded by brothers Rahul Kumar (24) and Vikash Kumar (26) in 2020—that focuses on upcycling plastic waste.
An experiment that paid off
It was sometime amid the first lockdown that the Kumar brothers realised an extreme increase in plastic consumption. “Since no one could go out, people would order food and groceries at home. With each delivery came more plastic,” shares Rahul. Hoping to do their part in environmental improvement, they started collecting used plastic from their neighbourhood. They also started buying plastic from rag-pickers to upcycle these into eco-friendly products. What started as a lockdown experiment has, in time, turned into an eco-conscious brand that gives unwanted plastic a new lease of life as accessories, home decor, and furniture.
Creating a conscious impact
Given theirs is a start-up that is growing gradually, Rahul mentions how, in the beginning, people barely bought from them citing high price points. “Plastic is one of the cheapest materials in India, so, most of them would think that because our products are recycled, they will be cheap.” In order to remain in the competitive market, Minus Degre had to significantly reduce the price of its products. However, they also add that more than being a manufacturer, they aim to be awareness creators who inform people about reducing plastic waste and consumption. They do so by conducting plastic-awareness campaigns around the city. A recent campaign titled ‘Plastic Pe Charcha’ has the team travelling to different areas in Delhi as they discuss plastic waste and climate change with strangers.
While the upcoming blanket ban on single-use plastic is a welcome move, there is uncertainty about implementation and alternatives. Speaking about how similar bans issued earlier never lasted, Rahul concludes, “Whatever measure the government takes, at the end of the day, it is our responsibility to create change. Small efforts are what matters.”
Leading by example
Minus Degre conducted a plastic awareness workshop at Free School Under The Bridge for Poor Children, Yamuna Bank on Saturday. “The next generation are in danger and must be aware of this,” says Rahul.