Mahatma Gandhi had used charkha (spinning wheel) to promote indigenous (Swadeshi) clothing by boycotting foreign goods. The charkha became a tool and symbol of the Swadeshi movement, a part of Indian independence movement.
The same charkha has now been used after more than seven decades by Amita Deshpande, an IT engineer for promoting boycott of plastic goods. She has founded reCharkha – The EcoSocial Tribe in Pune for upcycling non-biodegradable plastic waste.
She belongs to Dadra and Nagar haveli, but shifted to Pune for her higher education and subsequent career. Both places are entirely different in the matter of environment. Amita was eco-conscious from the very beginning. She used to lead a plastic-free life by adopting sustainable practices.
After completing her bachelor’s in IT, she did her master’s in business with focus on sustainability. She worked in a company, then moved to US for master’s. She worked with NGOs and CSR teams of MNCs both in US and India, and remained throughout conscious of waste management and environment conservation.
When she came back to India, she founded and headed Arohana EcoSocial Development for 7 years with the object of conserving the environment and creating livelihoods for remote village and tribal areas. She thereafter rebranded and started this enterprise, reCharkha with charkha and loom.
She collects her raw material from rag pickers and organisations collecting plastic waste. Then the waste is cleaned, dried and segregated colour-wise. This is then spun on a charkha into yarn that is woven into plastic fibre on handlooms to make beautiful bags, mats, kits, baskets etc. Her motto is 4 Re’s– Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
For marketing her products, she made a video of the manufacturing process right from raw waste to finished product, and played it at expos, exhibitions, workshops etc apart from using social media platforms like WhatsApp.
Unlike other companies, reCharkha takes pride in non-automated manufacturing process and manual labour. Today reCharkha is changing lives of poor village and tribal youth, and about 70% of her workers are women.
Amita’s struggle shows how livelihoods can be generated by using modest means, profitably and with a twin objective of environment conservation and social upliftment.