Author – Sahana Rajan
We all complain about the paper waste that piles up in our offices, which will ultimately end up in landfills. While emails and soft-copies of documents have reduced the consumption of paper, tons of barely used paper sheets are still being produced across the country. This is particularly true about educational institutions where students need to write reams of projects reports on one-side paper sheets, which are discarded at the end of every academic year.
Some students of Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies (SSCBS) in Delhi observed this problem while they were teaching underprivileged children in the slums of Delhi. While the corporate sector wastes enormous amount of paper, there is a severe shortage of study material for poor children who cannot afford good educational kits.
These students came together to establish “Students in Free Enterprise” (SIFE), a non-profit organization that stands as a platform for creating socially responsible business leaders. SIFE, which is now renamed as ‘Enactus’, consists of a group of passionate student volunteers of SSCBS, who intend to make positive changes in the lives of underprivileged women and children through their entrepreneurial projects.
In 2009, SIFE SSCBS rolled out their first project ‘Sanitation Solutions’, through which they created awareness about personal hygiene by producing and providing sanitary aids to women in slum areas of Delhi. Their second project ‘Project Akshar’ was established in 2011 for creating a space where business was accompanied by the human spirit of helping the needy and underprivileged. Coupled with the mobilization of youth for social causes, the project provides a holistic framework for an enterprise.
Project Akshar can be summed up as the mission of providing educational tools to the economically underprivileged, by utilizing waste paper produced in corporate houses and educational institutions and recycling them as study material. Project Akshar began with three main objectives: To reuse one-side used sheets; to create business opportunities for community of hearing-impaired women and to supply reasonably priced educational tools to economically underprivileged children.
The process followed by Project Akshar is as follows:
1. Collection of waste from corporate houses, residential areas and institutions
2. Transportation of waste to an NGO
3. Segregation and processing of sheets: one-side used sheets are put to reuse; fully used paper is sent for recycling
4. Conversion of used paper into recycled eco-friendly notebooks
5. Supply of the notebooks and other items to economically underprivileged communities
Paper waste is collected every 3 weeks through drop-boxes placed at colleges, corporate houses and other offices. One-side used sheets are primarily retrieved from schools and colleges. After this, the collected paper is transported to the Delhi Foundation of Deaf Women (DFDW) either by Enactus members or by colleges themselves. Hearing-impaired women at DFDW produce eco-friendly notebooks from this paper waste, which are then sold for a small profit. These notebooks are made out of one-side used sheets, following the concept of reusing paper. The collection drive currently covers over 30 colleges and 8 schools in Delhi-NCR.
It is estimated that about 100 kg of used sheets would make for 27,000 sheets of recycled paper. One of the prime difficulties in operation of Project Akshar was the need to keep a track of the demand for notebooks and the supply of used sheets. So the NGO tied up with various partner organizations such as SMR Solutions, IMS, Dhanpat Rai Publications and Praja. Dhanpat Rai Publications is responsible for the stage of segregating waste paper that is later sent for recycling and reuse.