Art of plastic for a better future

Sarfaraz Ali and Sakshi Jha met while organising an event for the Institute of Management Studies, Ghaziabad, where the latter studied. Over time, the duo collaborated on several events, which they say was their introduction to how much plastic waste is generated at large scale events. 

After graduating college in 2011, the two worked in wedding planning until 2017. Even here, Sakshi (31) says, they noticed what a menace plastic waste was. “We were constantly disturbed by the plastic strewn all around us — spoons, glasses, bottles… Even when we went on road trips, we noticed that most people just throw plastic everywhere, and not where it is to be disposed of, like dustbins,” she tells The Better India.

“We learned that segregated plastic waste is taken by recyclers who melt it into a granular form. This is then used to make other products. While this helps in reusing the plastic, the melting process leads to a lot of pollution,” she adds. 

Melting plastics is an expensive process that releases several toxins in the air, which not only contribute directly to climate change, but can also lead to respiratory diseases. For Sakshi and Sarfaraz (35), it was imperative to find a viable solution to this problem. As artists — Sakshi is a Madhubani painter and Sarfaraz practices acrylic art — they decided to do so using their art. 

Under their Ghaziabad-based venture Sarfaraz and Sakshi Innovation Private Limited — launched in 2018 — they create sculptures and utility products out of plastic waste, including avant-garde pieces made from a combination of acrylics with sand, marble, wood, light, etc. Moreover, they have also designed benches, tables, and more for schools and Anganwadis in UP. With this, they say they have recycled 150 tonnes of plastic so far.

“My art reflects my life journey, and I have spent days just observing nature,” explains Sarfaraz. “It was while working as an event planner that I realised the true extent of the damage being done to ‘mother nature’. That’s when I decided to think about the planet and create awareness through art.”

In 2018, he designed a machine that can compress plastic without melting it. “The problem with the current way of melting plastic is that when it burns, it produces a lot of smoke, which is bad for the environment. Plastic has a natural quality and strength that enables it to bond on its own with a little bit of heat. Therefore, in my machine, by giving a minimum heat of 60-70 degrees Celsius, the plastic melts without causing harm to the environment,” explains Sarfaraz.

In 2018, the duo designed a 380 kg logo of Swacch Bharat Mission, which is displayed in Nagar Nigam in Ghaziabad. They did this by using 200 kg of polythene waste. 

For a while, they worked on several similar projects, all aimed at generating awareness around plastic recycling. Their following works included sculptures like the “world’s largest charkha” in Noida, boards made from plastic waste located across Ghaziabad, and more. 

As Sakshi explains, “We realized that creating awareness isn’t enough — we also needed to create useful products to demonstrate what we were preaching. We thought of making benches and chairs to serve as a living example of how waste can be turned into productive items. We also started making tree guards, planters, wall clocks, murals, table lamps, etc.”

“Sakshi and I will be working for the environment till the day we die. I think that plastic is not wrong, it is we humans who are wrong. We dispose of plastic anywhere and everywhere. We don’t segregate waste. If it is disposed of properly, there are systems in place to recycle it,” says Sarfaraz.

He also urges children to consider solutions to the environmental crisis as a career.

“Everyone wants to be a doctor, engineer, or an IAS officer. Who will take care of the environment then? I hope more children turn into environmentalists,” says Sarfaraz.

The story has been extracted from

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