“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Unglamorous as it can be, the term trash often has us wrinkling our nose in disgust. Well, call it ignorance if you wish, but what if I told you that the trash you dispose off most irresponsibly can be a means of sustenance for scores of people who face much larger difficulties in life than you do? Trash to cash, an amazing initiative taken up by Dr. Madhumita Puri, is an organization that empowers the differently-abled by educating them and helping them earn a livelihood.

It all started way back in 1992 with the Society for Child Development (SFCD) addressing the problems of those suffering from Intellectual Disability, wherein they dealt primarily with the matter of providing them with life skill training and quality education. What really drove Dr. Puri to start a school called Prabhat was the vision of creating a self sustainable employment division for those who are differently or rather specially-abled.

Yes, I choose to call them specially-abled because they not only repurpose trash and recycle it to create new products, but also make the end product a must buy for the consumer. While a person with no sight makes those aromatic incense sticks, a mentally challenged person makes the Holi/rangoli colors from temple flowers with much care and patience. And they sell these recycled products on a rickshaw. A magnificently designed vibrant rickshaw that is parked at numerous fairs which keep taking place in Delhi.

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With myriad of amazing products like incense sticks, table mats, woven bags, incense stick holders, coaster pens, rangoli or Holi colors, mouse pads etc. being repurposed from discarded materials, trash to cash is definitely revolutionizing the way the world looks at the issue of disposing garbage in an eco-friendly manner.

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Since there has always been a dearth of cheap raw materials, and with an abundance of trash in every nook and cranny of the city, recycling became the way to go for the organization. From the Delhi metro to hotels, temples and newspaper vendors, there have been many volunteering to donate trash to these people so that they can use it innovatively.

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Be it bottle caps, egg shells, flowers from temples, magazines, vinyl posters, old cassettes or CDs, the organization urges you to donate the trash that you’ve been hoarding since so long. And what’s more? You can even go ahead and BUY the recycled products to decorate your home. The colorful mats as those in the picture below can just be the zing that your living space has been missing all along.

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Since the festive season is just around the corner, you can start by buying the rangoli colors from the beautiful rickshaw parked at hot-spots like the Dilli Haat. Better still, light up your home this Diwali with the diyas made by these gifted people, and let their glow illuminate your home with benevolence.

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After all, as they say, “Recycling turns things into other things, which is like magic.” So, why not be a part of this magic? Donate trash; buy the recycled products and support these differently-abled people improve their living. Transform trash into cash, because as William Somerset Maugham puts it, “We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.”

Sangeeta Purkayastha

Sangeeta Purkayastha, an editor by profession, has sold her soul to all things creative. Always curious, always exploring and almost always a misfit, she is on a mission to keep the sassy enchantment of reading and writing alive. Get in touch with her on geet0034@gmail.com