Making quality products in India by turning waste into new items. That’s the ambition of the start-up IWAS. This Belgian-Indian joint venture aims to recycle over 100,000 bottles every year, including into drinking glasses, candles and candle jars. Through this upcycling process, IWAS is committed to making a positive impact on the environment. Local businesses and communities also benefit from sustainable and profitable support. “IWAS is not a charitable cause, it‘s a next-generation cooperation programme.”
The goal was to set up a project that is economically viable, with Belgian and Indian investors, and one that will eventually be fully run in India. The idea was born when entrepreneur Dries Moens was in India and was put in contact through friends and professional partners with two local and creative entrepreneurs – Mikhail Solanki and his partner Rhea from Goa. They were in charge of the company Meso Design LLC, which was producing drinking glasses from used beer bottles: they sold these under the name ‘Bôtl’. However, their production volume was too low and the price too high. So the couple was about to close this business.
With the local partners Maurice Britto and Dale Menezes, Dries Moens decided to invest in the Indian company. “It would have been a real shame to have allowed this initiative to fail. The price of the products was too high due to an insufficient volume: this is what commonly happens to artisanal products,” said Dries Moens. “To make the project economically viable, we had to convert the process into an industrial environment. If volumes increase, the price can be reduced. We will invest in the company until it becomes profitable and is able to operate with its own resources. So we want to help the local community.”
Development cooperation 2.0
IWAS clearly states that it is not a charitable cause. Keywords for the company are quality, competitively priced and economically viable. “We aim to offer high-quality and sustainable products, according to a well thought-out economic model,” said Dries Moens. “Our aim isn’t to make money, but to find partners who want to get involved in this adventure with IWAS. If we can provide operating capital and the required know-how, the company will succeed in flying by itself in India after a certain time. We could call this a development cooperation 2.0 programme. We are now also looking at other upcycling initiatives that could be industrialised. We are assessing the possibilities of moving into other products and countries that are experiencing the same issues.”
The name IWAS evokes the products’ history: “I was (IWAS) useless and I used to pollute, but today I’m useful.” IWAS products are made from waste and turned into useful items through an upcycling process. For the moment, the company’s range includes candles, candle jars and drinking glasses. These are made from used bottles of wine, beer or cold drinks.
Upgrading 100,000 bottles a year
India is really struggling with the pollution problem. For now, there is little in the way of infrastructure to process waste, so much of it ends up in the street and ultimately in the oceans. This was where IWAS saw an opportunity. Upcycling means turning a product or material into a new product with a higher quality as well as greater sustainability. Recycling is different from upcycling, because in recycling the waste is processed into a raw material. With upcycling, just the work is added, so there is no need for another energy source: this makes the process economically viable and better for the environment. IWAS hopes to save 100,000 bottles a year from entering the environment. “This is one of the first initiatives where a product that has undergone a quality upgrade is economically profitable and affordable.”
IWAS turns waste into quality and affordable products. The company, which was only recently formed, is eager to raise public awareness about the problems of waste and the environment.
Dries Moens, Maurice Britto and Dale Menezes are the three partners who created the IWAS platform. The Belgian non-profit ‘IWAS Products Belgium’ handles the distribution of IWAS products. The company ‘IWASabottle’, based in India and run by Meso Design LLP, looks after the waste processing that creates the new products – drinking glasses, candles and candle jars. A 70% share of the company IWASabottle in India is held by Meso Design LLC. The three partners in the company IWAS Products Belgium hold a 30% share. Their goal is to develop similar initiatives in the long term, such as ‘IWASatyre’ (vehicle tyres). Ultimately, it is hoped that the company IWASabottle in India will become profitable, thus enabling IWAS Products Belgium to support new projects.