Author – Ancy Varghese
India is known for its rich cultural heritage and diverse religious beliefs. Devotees belonging to different religions offer flowers to their deities as a form of worship. However, this generates large amounts of floral waste at religious places on a daily basis without any sustainable method of disposal.
Since the flowers are sacred, they are not to be thrown in dustbins with other garbage. Rather they are disposed of directly into local water bodies. Research finds that most of these flowers decay and pollute the rivers and other water bodies, making them toxic to marine life.
Fortunately, these discarded flowers no more go waste at temples as a few Indian innovators have devised some interesting methods to recycle floral waste into amazing products.
In 2015, Ankit Agarwal, a young innovator from Kanpur, was stunned to witness devotees drink river water full of sludge on the banks of river Ganga. This incident inspired him to start HelpUsGreen with his friend Karan Rastogi. HelpUsGreen is an organization that cleans floral waste from the Ganga and handcrafts it into incense sticks and biodegradable packaging material. Beginning with compost, the duo soon created charcoal incense sticks, devoid of harmful chemicals like arsenic and lead, using their special formula. Their incense sticks called Phool are sold for INR145-165.
Today, HelpUsGreen collects around 2.17 tons of flower waste every day from temples and mosques across Uttar Pradesh and has already recycled about 11,060 tons of waste to date. They boast a fulltime female staff of 73, thus empowering them and increasing their self-esteem. They are now working to produce biodegradable packaging and bio-leathers.
Green Wave is an eco-friendly initiative founded by Nikhil Gampa with the mission to recycle floral waste collected from temples and mosques in Mumbai. He came up with this idea to tackle floral waste after witnessing the floral waste in temples while traveling to a village in Madhya Pradesh.
Founded in 2015, Green Wave uses the collected floral waste as a raw material, which is segregated, dried and powdered. This is mixed with a binding agent and sawdust, and rolled into incense sticks called Nirmalya. Green Wave also aims to produce color dyes, powdered colors for Holi, fragrances, paper, and mosquito repellent in the coming years. Nirmalya incense sticks are priced at INR30.
Green Wave’s manufacturing unit is within a temple premises itself. Green Wave has tested pilot plants in Mumbai, Kanpur, and Telangana. They recycle almost 300kg of floral waste and have provided jobs to around 50-60 women from the slums of Mumbai and Kanpur.
Holy Waste is a social enterprise founded by Maya Vivek and Minal Dalmia at Gundla Pochampally village outside Hyderabad. They were inspired by the Kanpur based ‘HelpUsGreen’ that processes flowers into incense sticks. Holy Waste is a start-up established in 2018 that manufactures incense sticks and fragrant soaps from the floral waste.
Flower petals collected are dried, made into a fine powder, sieved, and stored in airtight bins. This is the raw material for producing soaps, which are also infused with Tulsi along with the dried flowers and don’t contain paraben. Holy waste soaps costs between INR100- 175.
Holy Waste currently employs 10 women who are experts in making incense sticks and handmade soaps. They are incubated at the Association for Innovation Development of Entrepreneurship in Agriculture at ICAR – National Academy of Agricultural Research Management, Hyderabad. Holy Waste works towards reducing the floral waste generated in Hyderabad city and has won accolades like the Best Green Startup award under Eco Ideas by Green India Awards 2019.
Adiv Pure Nature
Way back in 2011, Rupa Trivedi was disturbed by the floral waste clogging the rivers of the country. With this idea in mind, she founded Adiv Pure Nature, which collects floral waste from Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai and recycling it into natural dyes and vibrant textiles.
The collected flowers are dried for two days, then sprinkled over the cloth that is to be dyed. The cloth is folded multiple times into a small piece and steamed on either side for 15 minutes. After that, the cloth is opened up to remove the petals, giving a beautiful design on the cloth. Marigold, hibiscus, roses, and coconut are commonly used to create vivid designs, which immediately remind us of the entire panorama of a temple. A group of self-taught artisans and tailors work with Rupa Trivedi to transform this floral waste into beautiful scarfs, kurtas, and tailored garments. Today, Adiv Pure Nature produces about 30,000-40,000 meters of hand-dyed garments every month.
MATR is a social enterprise was established by Praveen Chauhan in Gaya, Bihar. He had this startup idea with two goals in mind: recycle floral waste and promote the use of Khadi. In 2019, MATR collaborated with a sustainable Australian fashion label “Because of nature” to launch a project called “The Happy Hand Project”. This project employs underprivileged women to convert floral waste into natural dyes for Khadi garments.
Every week, women collect floral waste from the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya, these flowers are separated as per the color and dried. The dried flowers are manually powdered, boiled, and the fabric is dyed with this mixture with the help of a dye fixative. Before the final drying process, the fabric is soaked in Amla juice and baking soda. Based on the expertise of dyers and artisans, these flowers can be converted to various shades of natural dyes.
One kg of dye pigment is produced from 30 kg of flowers and 55-60 meters of cloth can be dyed with a kg of this pigment. All waste collected after processing the flowers is used as compost ensuring zero waste production.
Delhi-based Jayshree Goyal was disturbed by the fact that most organic waste end up in landfills without being decomposed due to the lack of composting mechanisms. A collaboration between the government and Angelique Foundation’s Jayshree Goyal led to the idea of converting floral waste to manure. So Jayshree decided to come up with the solution for setting up flower-to-compost machines at temples in Delhi.
The flowers are sorted, separated from thread and other plastic material if any are shredded in a machine. About 10kg sawdust is added to 200kg floral waste to eliminate moisture and generate the heat essential in the overall biological process. Further, a composting culture is also added to the mix. After 20-25 days of biological process in the machines, the compost is collected from the outlet.
The flower-to-compost machines produced by Angelique Foundation have the capacity of processing 1500kgs of floral waste and are placed within the temple premises itself reducing the time and effort for transport. The manure produced is supplied to many schools, public parks, and various organizations.