After gaining about six years experience in the fashion industry—the former creative head for Aditiany has worked with international brands such as Givenchy, Ralph Lauren, etc.,—Shubhi Sachan grew restless, thinking about contributing to the growing textile waste in the country.
“Each day, I would witness the ruckus that was being produced in the name of creating a luxury garment. All these premium products are ingredients that are creating the most pollution,” shares the Noida-based textile designer. She adds, “It felt superficial to me. Something had to change no matter how small it was. Many people resist change by saying that ‘how does it matter if only you do it’.
But these small changes matter. It might only make a small difference but it is a change in the right direction.” To make that difference, Sachan founded Material Library of India (MLI), a collector’s space of sample waste materials gathered from various manufacturing units. The Library is a way for designers to reimagine waste materials and utilise them to their full potential. Officially registered in Mumbai in 2017, MLI shifted with Sachan to Noida in 2020.
A new lease of life
“Material libraries are not a new concept. They are available because human beings strive to innovate. However, before MLI, there weren’t any in India. Although we are a country that is brimming with creativity, most materials are imported. My thought of establishing this library was to make Indians aware of the materials available to us that most consider waste,” shares 35-year-old Sachan. Her venture archives industrial and agricultural waste—non-recyclable—and offers innovative solutions to using these in the process of making different materials.
Quoting the philosophy that the initiative goes by, Sachan adds, “In the future, when we exhaust the country’s material quarries, waste will be the only resource left. So, if we start looking at it [ways to reuse waste] now, then when the time comes, we will be prepared.”
Waste across sectors—beginning from industrial waste such as plastic, leftover leather, industrial gloves, etc., to agricultural waste such as rice husk ash, mature coconut water, walnut shells, onion peels, and more—are collected and archived by MLI in collaboration with other industrial companies and agriprocessors. “Such materials are forcefully recycled by industries either by burning or dumping them in wastelands. MLI gives the waste a new lease of life,” explains Sachan.
Making a conscious decision
To generate awareness about creative reuse and make people material literate, MLI conducts workshops with citizens and also collaborates with schools and colleges. “The idea is to sensitise people who are unaware of the consequences of material waste,” says Sachan.
Through simple activities, Sachan helps people understand the concept of materiality by allowing them to interact with the materials, and offering creative solutions to help curb the growing problem of waste generation. Speaking of a previous workshop they had conducted, Sachan concludes, “One of the participants mentioned how the entire process is elementary and yet so fundamental to our lives. That one comment perfectly summed up our entire agenda—a way of showing people simple ways in which they can move towards a sustainable future.”