Tag Archives: PVC

Tyvek: sustainable substitute or simply ‘less bad’?

1 Mar

This is the final post about our project’s amazing response from India’s corporate world.

After news of the project broke in the Indian media we were contacted by Reebok, Aviva and finally, Dupont.

Dupont is a global science-based products and services company. They’re into…well…everything!

They were keen to work with Conserve India on an upcycling solution for their signage and banner products made from one of the company’s signature materials –Tyvek.

Tyvek is created with finely spun fibers of high density polyethelene. So it’s still a plastic derived from petroleum and could be viewed as ‘less bad’ rather than as a more sustainable alternative to the cheaper PVC signage materials.

But from an upcycling point of view, Tyvek is a very interesting material. It’s incredibly lightweight, strong, water and stain resistant.

Dupont sent us some sample Tyvek sheets (note the logo on the bottom – yep, they were ticket envelopes left over from the Commonwealth Games).

tyvek commonwealth games envelopes

Delhi Commonwealth Games Tyvek ticket envelopes converted to a tote bag

With only half an hour to experiment, Conserve’s design intern (Jenna) whipped up a simple tote bag to show Dupont India staff.

Jenna and the sample Tyvek tote bag

Jenna and the sample Tyvek tote bag

The meeting was positive and, by the time I left India, both Conserve and Dupont were interested in developing an ongoing upcycling partnership.

The corporate interest in Conserve India was a fantastic unexpected outcome from our Commonwealth Games project.

I’m looking forward to sharing the final project results over the next few days.

Liz

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Insane in the membrane…

24 Feb

Ok, so we’re heading into the home stretch with this project blog (just over a week to go until my final deadline: Sunday March 6). I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted about the Games PVC banner material.

So what happened to all those banners – all 25 tonnes of them?

Commonwealth Games banners scrap

Commonwealth Games banners stored at the warehouse

We made a heap of products and sold them for stash of cash, right?

Not quite.

I was trialling one of the sample PVC bags, taking it to all my meetings, usually stuffed full of things like a Macbook laptop and a waterbottle (no point mucking around when it comes to R&D).

using the Games messenger bags

On the way to a 'very important' meeting at the 2010 Commonwealth Games

A few weeks of this and I began noticing cracks in the folds – the PVC banners from the Games media event just weren’t durable enough for a bag in constant use. But what about the official Games wall wrap banners? Could we still use them?

Checking out the banner material with Conserve India's sampling unit

Checking out the wall wrap banner material with Conserve India's sampling unit

Sadly, it turned out they were made of a similar form of PVC.

It’s called blackout flex – basically polyester thread spray painted with a thin PVC resin coating. Great for cheap, temporary advertising applications, but not so good for a high-end, durable fashion accessory.

It felt like we’d hit a dead end with our Games upcycling experiment. We made one last visit to the warehouse, thinking we’d collect a couple of the wall wraps for future experiments with the material.

But when we arrived we noticed these…

Commonwealth Games athlete flags

Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games street flags

Sponsor flags

Air India and Tissot Games sponsor flags - major brands being trashed...literally

trashed brands

Hero Honda and Central Bank of India: do you know where your brand is being dumped?

They were street flags, strung up across the city for the Games and made from a tougher form of PVC (blockout flex).

So, with clouds of disappointment rapidly lifting, we took as many of the flags as we could manage and hurried back to Conserve’s workshop.

As for the wall wrap banners, as far as we know, they were sold as cheap scrap to the city’s waste dealers. We’d like to think they ended up serving a useful second purpose. However, we can’t be certain.

But one thing is for sure, dear readers, it’s a little insane in the brain making so many of them in the first place, let alone without much thought for what happens to them when the party is over.

Looking forward to showing you what we did with the flags…

Hands-on upcycling II: staff profile

7 Dec

While we wait for our new Commonwealth Games sample products to be finalised, I thought I’d return to our ‘hands on upcycling’ series, showcasing Conserve India’s people and processes.

In the first of these production posts we saw snapshots of staff preparing base materials, creating designs and producing samples. Today we move to an important hub of the organisation – the stockroom.

One of the things I’ve come to understand and admire about Conserve India is their commitment to providing staff with professional development opportunities, including promotion.

One person who has risen up through the ranks is Mohan, Conserve India’s Production Manager. Because my hindi is not very good, interviewing Mohan for this blog was a little tricky.  So I was grateful to Anita, Conserve’s Creative Director, for kindly offering to translate for us.

Here’s Mohan sharing a few of his experiences working with Conserve India:

Mohan Conserve India's Production Manager

How long have you worked with Conserve India and what was your first job?

I’ve worked here for 9 years. My first job was in the Quality Control Unit.

What was the hardest thing you had to learn when you became Production Manager?

The hardest thing was taking on more responsibility. I now oversee Conserve’s production process. It still involves checking the quality of all materials delivered to Conserve’s stockroom. But it’s also my job to divide up the stock and make sure it’s sent out to our fabricator workshops to meet buyer orders for our products.

Did you know about Delhi’s Commonwealth Games?

Yes, I knew they were happening.

Did you go? Did the Games have any impact on your life?

No I didn’t go. But I noticed the city was cleaned up a lot for the Games – that was a good thing.

Which of Conserve’s special Commonwealth Games products do you like best so far?

I like the Shahrukh messenger bag.

Shahrukh messenger bags

Commonwealth Games 'Shahrukh' messenger bags

What has been the most important change to your life from being promoted within Conserve India?

Being rewarded for hard work, with things like a better salary, is important. But becoming a manager also means my workmates look to me more: I have earned greater respect.

Unexpected outcomes

5 Dec

“Hello Liz, this is Abhigyan from Reebok India calling…”

About a week after the Commonwealth Games ended, news of our project broke in two of India’s most widely read English newspapers – the Times of India and Hindustan Times.

The combined reach of these papers is almost 20 million people. Just this fact alone was enough to send us double air-punching around the Conserve India office.

But what we didn’t expect was the response from people in companies, like Reebok, tracking us down to talk all things upcycling. (More on Reebok soon).

As you may have guessed from my last post, one of the companies was Aviva, a multinational insurance firm. Aviva recently launched an international branding campaign – ‘You are the Big Picture’. As part of this initiative, thousands of photos donated by members of the public were projected for a week onto a giant banner hanging from Statesman House in Connaught Place, Delhi.

Aviva has promised one pound for every photo uploaded to their website – up to a maximum of 250,000 GBP – will go to education projects, working with street kids across India.

Jenna on Aviva's Statesman House Banner

Jenna donates her face in Aviva's 'You are the Big Picture' campaign

So we were certainly intrigued when David Jiggens, Production Director from ICON – Aviva’s event management company, gave us a call looking for a way to recycle the banner. David was used to having options like waste to heat treatment in his home country, England, for disposing of materials otherwise heading to landfill.

I said: “Hey Dave, recycling is so last century! How about we energy-efficiently upcycle your banner into some brand spanking new products? And while we’re at it, we might even throw in some free Commonwealth Games material to make the products extra specially unique.” (Not quite how it rolled, but I’m summarizing several conversations. You get the drift.)

David liked the idea and we reached an agreement to spend his recycling budget on upcycling instead. Nice.

Tune in for tomorrow’s post and we’ll show you how the banner got from the side of a building to our factory…and what we’re going to upcycle it into…

Go well,

Liz

What’s the big picture?

25 Nov

Very quick post – there’s so much good stuff happening here in Delhi it’s been difficult to keep the blog up to date. We’ll be announcing news on where our Commonwealth Games project ended up soon:  it involves a big corporate, a global branding campaign and school kids.

Need another hint?

Watch this video teaser and see if you can work it out…

P.S. the song used in the video is from a contemporary jazz ensemble my sister put me onto a few years ago – the Portico Quartet. I’m a fan.

Where do we go?…

21 Nov

… ‘Oh, where do we go now?…Sweet child o’ mine’. Guns ‘n’ Roses

Yep. That’s right: this song has been running relentlessly through my head while researching and writing this particular post. (Go on, treat yourself to a little late eighties glam-rock posturing. You know you want to).

What’s a global hit from the eighties got to do with upcycling?

It started a few weeks ago, during the Games, while talking to the South Asian correspondents for British and Australian news publications about what we were attempting to do.

I felt under-prepared for the interview – particularly when one of the journalists asked, “A lot of the city’s slums have been cleared out for this event. Why should the Games give you waste, like vinyl banners, when they could be used by poor people to re-build their homes?”

washing behind a wall wrap

Image courtesy AP Photo/Manish Swarup via The Big Picture, Boston.com

Good. Question.

I fumbled a reply and the interview ended with neither journalist running a story (I know – it’s enough to make any half-savvy PR girl weep).

But it did get me to thinking: when it’s not going to landfill, where does all the waste in Delhi end up?

So, while humming the Gunner’s theme tune, I did a little research on the waste stream we are following from the Games – scrap banners.

We asked the company storing the banners where they thought the scrap was used. They told us they sell it for a small fee to the waste-dealing middlemen of Delhi – the kabadi wallas. Beyond this, they could only guess where the material went.

So I took my trusty little digi cam for a scout around the city to see what I could see:

It’s entirely possible the banners might get used as temporary shelters in one of Delhi’s jugghis (slums)…

Slum settlement on my route to work in East Delhi

Slum settlement on my route to work in East Delhi

…or covering loads on the back of trucks…

Truck canvas cover

Protecting the cargo with the canvas

…or as a colourful roof for a rickshaw…

Rickshaw canvas roof

Pimp my ride with upcycling style

…and, of course, as excellent shades against Delhi’s ferocious Summer heat…

Shade canvas

Look closely - these are actually Games banners converted to shade cloths!

So yeah, there’s a lot of informal repurposing, reusing and upcycling already going on in Delhi.

But with the city’s residents generating around 7,000 tonnes of waste a day, there’s also a lot of rubbish going straight to the dumps or simply being burnt on the streets…

Burning waste in Delhi

Burning waste, including plastics, on a street corner in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi

And it’s not just a problem for Delhi: although the Australian state of Victoria achieves pretty high recycling rates, the amount of waste generated by the 5.5 million population continues to increase each year.

Upcycling is one of many ways to tackle this problem by rethinking our headspace on waste – it’s about seeing value (and beauty) in things we might otherwise discard.

Getting back to that song, what would happen if we thought of our products as our own children?

We’d want to cherish them, protect them and never give them away. And, most of all, we’d do everything we could to stop them ending up here…

products and child

…wouldn’t we?

‘Now and then, when I see [his] face, [he] takes me away to that special place. And if I stared too long, I’d probably break down and cry’…

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