Ground Reports

The Journey From Trash To Something Functional

A novel solution to combat the menace of plastic trash and growing waste in Delhi.

By Sanjana Chawla, 10 May 2023

Around the same time last year, the indian government had imposed a ban on the manufacturing, use, distribution and sale of single-use plastic items. As the name suggests, single-use plastic is usually of low utility and quality but holds the capacity of generating a mammoth amount of litter and waste. Owing to its low density and weak composition, items made of single-use plastics such as wrappers, bottles, straws, cutlery, etc. are often discarded and disposed after one-use. Available in markets at throwaway prices and found in every nooks, these products add to the country’s swelling plastic problem.

In order to reverse the effects and the growing burden of plastic on the planet, Delhi’s Ashwani Aggarwal has devised and implemented a unique and interesting waste-reversal model. With a designing and architectural engineering background, Aggarwal converts the disposed waste and plastic remains into sustainable and eco-friendly products.

Founder of a non-profit collective BasicShit, Aggarwal has a team of architects, artists, scientists, and waste workers working under him who take care of everything—from collecting the trash, melting it, making the designs, and finally developing usable products of various kinds out of it. The collective also buys plastic waste from the waste pickers and scrappers.

BasicShit creates a myriad of products including user-friendly and dry public urinals & toilets for the people living on streets.

He also creates ash trays, tables, chairs, birdhouses, doghouses, spitting bowls, and even aesthetic computer and laptop tables.

Speaking on the process of making these recycled products, Aggarwal shares, the materials and the procedure followed as per the product that is being made. He combines a variety of materials ranging from kitchen waste, plastic waste, wet waste, and even cigarette buds to make the products.

He adds, “We use discarded plastic bottles, plastic bottle caps, nicotine reminas, toothpaste tubes, and wrappers of chips & candies to make environmentally-friendly, portable urinals and chairs”.

Aggarwal shares that once his team of waste pickers collect the trash and plastic waste, he segregates all of it on the basis of their material and condition. The segregated waste is then loaded into a waste trashing machine which creates thin paper-like strips of all the waste.

Once several of these strips are created, all of them are combined, treated, and melted together and converted into colourful, multi-gradient slabs.

These slabs are then used to create table tops, the base of the chair, and several other products. He adds strength and weight to these waste slabs by mixing them with the waste tubes of the toothpaste, and kitchen foil. Aggarwal highlights, “Our ashtrays, planters and bird houses are the most loved products”.

BasicShit also makes use of potato and onion peels, soaked rice, and mushrooms to make its products. “We add strips of kitchen foils to make the products fire-resistant and to add a bit of shine to them”, Aggarwal shares.

He continues, "Majority of our products are composed of discarded bottle caps and bottles as they add a pop of colour". Aggarwal share that the green colour in his products come from the bottle cap of sprite or bisleri and the black colour is derived using the fragments of old tires, tubes, and water tank.

With this initiative, Aggarwal is doing a twin task. On one hand, he is working towards overcoming the problem of waste and plastic, and on the other hand he is bridging the gap of India’s sanitation, cleanliness and hygiene-related issues. “There is a dearth of safe to use and clean toilets in the country, especially for women. We are trying to resolve this issue on our individual level by installing eco-friendly and dry public urinals and toilets across places in the country”, Aggarwal explains.

Till now, Aggarwal and his team has recycled over 10 tonnes of plastic and waste. He believes in the notion of a circular economy and uses everything that gets thrown in dustbins and eventually land up in towers of landfills. His recycled and ucycled products are useful and are relevant for not just humans but for the vast variety of flora & fauna too.

Aggarwal believes that if we were to wait for others to take a step towards environmental conservation, nothing would happen. He continues, “I have always been considerate towards environment and I am doing all that I can to protect it”. His ways of recycling and composting waste is new for the country and his recycled, nature-friendly urinals & toilets have offered a huge sigh of relief for passerbys and those living on the street.