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I met Suren when I was on a field research trip to Coimbatore. Suren and I are alumini from the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore. Over dinner we had a long chat and Suren shared with me his ideas and aspirations for Thunk India. Later we drove down to see the incredibly beautiful studio he is building-surrounded by the hills and lush green banana plantations. I am excited to see how Thunk shapes up in the future! Good luck Suren! Here is a bit about Thunk

Thunk is a start-up company, established in 2009. It came forth from a design project carried out by Suren Vikhash in the field of waste in 2007- 2008. The project consisted of designing composters that converted organic waste into manure. That project lasted a year, and during that period Suren familiarized himself with the current waste management system in Bangalore, and understood the various stakeholders’ roles in the entire system.

For the vast majority of the urban people (middle class/upper class), their houses are clean and the sense of cleanliness is obtained when their waste is put into black polythene bags and left outside the house. Most people are not concerned about the waste once it leaves their doorstep. This is what Suren observed and understood: what happens to the waste once it leaves one’s doorstep, where it goes and what happens to it. There was a lot of disappointment in the process. However, there was a positive outcome in following and understanding ‘waste’ disposal: he could see that there were many intervention points where a small change could make a substantial difference.

Visiting landfills around Bangalore, he was surprised to see that lots of materials that were considered to be recyclable or downcyclable found their way there. Further, a lot of materials had a long life, but only a small portion of their life span was utilised before they reached landfills. For example, tetrapak has a lifespan of more than 60 years. But from the time of manufacture till the time it is used and thrown away (product life) only 2 – 3 months would have passed. It is sent to the landfill where it stays for many years, harming not just that piece of land but the water bodies around it, the atmosphere etc. This led him to start exploring other options with the waste materials. One such identified interventions was Up-cycling waste materials. He designed various products using waste materials like tetrapak cartons and polythene covers.

Rag pickers play a crucial role in the waste management system. They are the ones who initiate the process of waste management by primary waste collection. But inspite their valuable contribution towards the process of waste management, they are looked down at. Thunk in India is passionate and dedicated towards empowering the livelihoods of various underprivileged communities by innovating for a cleaner environment. Thunk currently works Slum women, Rag pickers, Craftsmen (Traditional sarree weavers) and organic farmers. Thunk provided job opportunities, Micro financing opportunities, skill training and various other platforms to empower these communities.

These products made me smile  : )

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