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Discarded temple flowers being converted into scented soaps in Vijayawada

Using floral waste gathered from temples, festivals and functions, Green Waves is making eco-friendly incense sticks, dhoops, scent soaps and candles

Flowers offered to the Gods in temples and homes, or kept for decoration or presented as a gift look beautiful but unfortunately on drying up, their disposal poses a problem. They are either used in landfill or dumped in the river and ponds resulting in water pollution affecting human beings and other living organisms.

Green Waves Environmental Solutions, a start-up in the field of solid and e-waste management has now partnered with Vijayawada Municipal Corporation in Andhra Pradesh to make disposal of floral waste easy and profitable by converting them into useful products like incense sticks, perfumes, soaps, natural dyes, essential oil, scented candles and compost among others. Shells of coconut offered to deities and used at homes are utilised for making bowls and key chains.

VMC allows Green Waves to collect flowers from temples in the city under zero waste programme. Talking about this public-private partnership with India Narrative, P. Anil Chowdary, Managing Director, Green Waves said: “We are collecting floral waste from 16 temples and flower markets in Vijayawada. During the season, we collect 1,000 kilograms per day and on non-season days the collection varies between 300 to 500 kg per day. The waste is used to make dhoop sticks, dhoop cones, soaps, bio-enzymes, seed paper and seed balls. We are yet to start natural colour dye and candles. A total of 16 women are part of this.”

While VMC is helping in land and infrastructure in the project, Green Waves is providing technology and know-how.

On how the products are sold, Chowdary told India Narrative: “We are right now selling through eco stores and social media platforms. Soon a website and app will be launched for marketing these.”

When asked to elaborate on problems encountered while selling, he said: “People expect the recycled or eco-friendly products to be cheaper but actually they are a little bit expensive compared to goods in that category. While we are working on reducing costs, people need to appreciate that eco-friendly items are handmade and expensive because a lot of hard work is involved in segregating the waste.”

Elaborating to IN on why the Vishakhapatnam-based Green Waves took up this project, Chowdary revealed: “We thought of generating green jobs through handling of waste by converting it into eco-friendly products and decided to recycle paper waste into seed paper stationery products and coconut waste into coco bowl and coco keys chains.  Flower waste was selected as in India they are used for festivals, functions and temples and they either end up in compost pits or landfills or rivers and sea. We found one can make dhoop sticks, soaps, dyes, candles, etc out of them. The project was designed to provide sustainable employment and empower women.”

A pilot project was launched in 2019 and priests of select temples in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam were briefed about the project and flower segregation. Bins were placed at the temples and flowers were separated as per type and leaves were dried to make powder. Apart from temples, flowers were gathered from important public and private functions too.

To separate the flowers, two women were engaged in Hyderabad and Vizag. Flower petals after sufficiently drying them were powdered and natural essentials were added to roll them into dhoop and incense sticks.

“To make the dhoop more effective, lemon grass, neem and Indian borage extract were added to make them mosquito repellent,” disclosed Chowdary.

Waste other than dried petals which was left after segregation was used to make manure while mango leaf waste was turned into compost. The coconut shells were converted into key chains and bowls. Rose petals were specifically used to make handmade soaps by mixing other natural essentials.

The pilot wasn’t easy as initially priests were reluctant while people tended to mix the dry and wet flowers. Municipal workers at times mixed food and floral waste to save time cleaning after a festival or function.

The success of the pilot got VMC to tie-up with Green Waves. Chowdary now hopes to expand to other metros in Karnataka, Goa, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.