Konversations: He turns your trash into treasure
The idea is for people to donate on one end and help struggling organizations to receive item donations on the other end, all for free. Photograph: (WION)
This thought-provoking statement became the motto of a young man from India.
From chemical imports, mushroom farming, graphic designing to fast food chains, Ramakrishna Iyengar did it all. But his calling was a greater purpose in life, he wanted to address the concerns of depleting natural resources and increasing landfills. He came up with Pass It On, a non-profit platform that promotes the concept of freecycling, or free recycling - an act of giving away usable, unwanted items to others instead of discarding them. He intends to help NGOs, orphanages and old age homes benefit from the process.
The 24-year-old is a hardcore computer gamer and sometimes spends 5 hours a day only playing online games to de-stress. Apart from this, he loves to play the guitar and travel.
Kazimi: When did you realize that your concerns for the environment were so strong?
Ram: I have been concerned about the environment right from my childhood. The earth is our home, and we are only dirtying and damaging it. The expanding carbon footprint and uncountable landfills tell us so much about the situation. I wanted to take a stand for the ongoing crisis and raise more awareness.
Kazimi: What triggered you to start a venture about freecycling?
Ram: Eventually, I realized that more than lack of awareness, people have little direction on how to help out in improving the situation. Almost everyone has unwanted but useful items in their homes, like books, clothes, toys, gadgets, etc., and are stuck in a dilemma of whether to throw them away or to give them to someone. However, these days no one has the time to go out and search for people or organizations to donate their items to.
I have seen wealthy people throwing away usable things that could have been freecycled and channeled to someone who could not afford it. I wanted to change the way people get rid of useful but unwanted items.
Kazimi: So how does your company help to resolve the problem?
Ram: The idea is for people to donate on one end and help struggling organizations to receive the donations on the other end. The key here is using technology to ease the process. We offer an online platform for people to declutter their house in a meaningful way. We have partnered with several NGOs, orphanages and old-age homes, which will be the direct recipients of these items. This is where we come in - the team does pick-up and delivery of products without levying any charges.
Kazimi: Any instance that has stayed with you?
Ram: From small items like books and clothes people have been putting up high-value items such as televisions, furniture and smartphones on the site for donation. I was really moved when a lady had put big bags of cat food for donation since her cat died recently and she wanted to give it away to anyone who has a cat. You can find so many similar items on our website that would have ended up in a trashcan otherwise.
Kazimi: What are the challenging facets of the job?
Ram: It is quite hard to change the traditional mind-set of people where they would rather throw away their belongings or sell them at dirt cheap prices. Putting human values before profit, applying commercial strategies to maximize human and environmental well-being is not for the weak minded. It’s not a regular money-making venture.
Kazimi: What keeps you motivated when feeling low?
Ram: I have my own mantras to keep myself going. Don’t pay heed to people who try to bring you down. The most important skill a human being needs is that of overcoming failure. Always follow your heart and have the guts to chase your dream. Take risks; even if it doesn’t work out, you will still gain experience.
Kazimi: What are some issues that need urgent attention?
Ram: A better waste management system. The world should take inspiration from Sweden. They convert all their garbage into usable energy, so much so, that they run out of garbage and have to import it from other countries. Energy crisis is one of the biggest economic challenges the world is facing right now, and it is linked to all other crises, such as poverty, starvation, etc. A huge chunk of the population doesn't have basic access to renewable energy.
Kazimi: What can the common man do to address the ongoing crisis?
Ram: We collectively have to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and move on to cleaner energy sources, Global warming is not just a theory anymore. It is happening, ice caps are melting faster than ever. It is the time we all start implementing environment-friendly measures, otherwise nature will take over us. If each individual does their part, such as using energy efficient products, planting a tree or carpooling, the collective impact will be massive. The smallest of things can make a difference.
(Coordinator and Editor: Devanshi Verma)