Giving both the flowers and women a new lease on life
Over 8 million tonnes of flowers are dumped into Indian rivers every year. These discarded flowers leach pesticide into the water, destroying the ecosystem and increasing toxicity. Thankfully there is a group of motivated innovators that couldn’t go with the flow any longer.
Since 2015, HelpUsGreen has pioneered “flowercycling technology” and has recycled over 11,060 metric tonnes floral-waste till date, renewing them into useful, eco-friendly products.
India’s over 200 million Dalits are the so-called ‘untouchables’ of the caste system, which divides Indian society into hierarchal groups. At the bottom of the system are sanitation workers and those who handle human waste. HelpUsGreen employs women from the manual scavenging community, giving both the flowers and women a new lease on life or a “Nayi Zindagi”.
Ankit Agarwal – Co-Founder & CEO, HelpUsGreen says – ‘Every morning, we all Indians go to our temples to worship, and we offer flowers to our Gods. But hardly does anyone think what happens to these flowers once they are being offered.’
Each year, tonnes of waste flowers are dumped into rivers like the Ganges. The pesticides, insecticides used to grow these flowers, mixes with the river water, making it highly toxic. The same water that more than 420 million use to drink, to bathe; which is their source of livelihood, to farm, to fish.
The organization started collecting water flowers and started making some products. The special part of this is that all the work is being done by women, who were earlier marginalized. The aim was to benefit the section of the society through this enterprise. They now have 79 women to make incense products, sold under the name of ‘Phool’ (Hindi for flowers). By 2020, it wants to recycle 50 tonnes of waste flowers daily and hire 3700 women.
The women get the benefits like insurance, health benefits, retirement benefits. They are provided with clean drinking water. When they started working with HelpUsGreen, they went through a perspective change. They are now more confident about themselves. So it’s not just about financial livelihoods but also about dignity and respect.
HelpUsGreen is a 2018 awardee of the DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Grant Programme. The grant will be used by them to scale up operations to other cities and set up the production facility of Florafoam®, the world’s first-ever biodegradable thermocol
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