How India’s Trash is 1 Woman’s Fortune

On an otherwise reasonable evening in July, over 1000 people packed an auditorium in Boulder Colorado for the culmination of the Unreasonable Institute. They came to watch 12 ventures, tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges, take the stage and share their plans to help define progress in our time. This is one of those talks.

The entrepreneur in this video is Madhumita Puri, Founder and CEO of Trash to Cash.

What Does Trash to Cash Do?

In India, 99% of adults with disabilities are unemployed. Trash to Cash trains adults with a variety of disabilities in India to collect trash and turn it into beautiful products that can be sold in India and elsewhere. Since 2008, we have generated $220,000 and employed 87 women with disabilities who would otherwise be without employment.

Our strategy uses waste material as raw material to reduce operational costs and increase profits. Traditional crafts persons (who were struggling to earn) are our trainers. Since the products are creative and different, they are frequently reported by the media, which helps reach out to a vast and diverse population. We also provide eco-friendly kits for conferences and seminars. Thus, in 4 years we have established a venture that maximizes profits, employs 87 people (including women) considered to be unemployable, with raw materials that pollute our waters and lands, to showcase that employment is possible!

Encouraging the replication of this model in other parts of India will provide income to many more.

About the author

Unreasonable Institute

Unreasonable Institute

The Unreasonable Institute arms entrepreneurs creating solutions to the world’s biggest social and environmental problems with the mentorship, capital, and networks they need to do so.

  • Palecekb

    This is a great organization! The fact that your employees are made of people with disabilities is amazing. This could benefit not only the workers themselves but the communities as well. There is a 5K run/walk here in the U.S. that uses the same type of colored powder through the run and during the celebration after. Has the company (The Color Run) come across your organization in possibly purchasing or donating to your business or process of making the powder? I think they would be very interested in helping the cause while making money for there own organization!

  • Madhumita Puri
  • ali Alamri

    great video and ideas

  • Alexa A Dralle

    This is such a fantastic idea. Recycling flowers to be beautiful again for a festival that everybody will take part in. Helping people with disabilities to have a job is so important. These people have been thought of, or think of themselves as outcasts and are finally able to get the chance to become “normal” and have a family and a home.

  • KE7JLM

    Great innovation, suitability at it’s best.

  • Morgan H

    Your company is doing so many great things! Not only are you recycling flowers, but you’re also creating jobs for the disabled! I’m curious if you would bring this ideas into other countries as well. Also you have plans to create more jobs, but do you have more ideas about recycling other things besides flowers for this festival or to do this for other holidays swell. Amazing work!

  • Yaromil Olivares

    Thank you! Such an inspiration to watch this video, Ms. Puri. I am a member of the leadership core of a women of color leadership development organization that is transitioning from a non-profit model to a social entrepreneurship model and will be sharing this video with them.

  • Johanna

    This is such a great organization! It is so inspiring to learn about companies that are doing such positive things for our planet. The idea of this organization is so innovative and your products are so unique making them successful. Not only are your products unique, but you have creative a business out of something that is such an important part of your culture. You can ensure that the need for these products will only continue to grow like it has for the colored powder for the Holi Festival. I specially like that you have created a Win-Win-Win situation with this business. First of all, you are reusing items that so many see as waste because we don’t see the effects of our daily consumption of items that we declares as “trash” after they are used for their primary purpose. Our world is so quick to discard things that can still be of value. If more people recycled in the creative way that you are doing, the world would be a healthier place to live in in the long-run. In addition, you are creating employment for disabled people which is amazing because this gives them the opportunity to live more independent and happy lives. Finally, it is a Win-Win-Win situation because Trash to Cash is cash flow positive meaning that it is not only doing good for the world but it generates positive revenue which will allow it to continue to grow and remain sustainable in the long-run. I am confident that with the strategy that you have developed you will be able to create the 5,000 jobs that you have set as your goal.Your strategy is simple and feasible with the support and help from the community. I appreciate that you are promising your people that you are working with honesty and that you have made it part of your plan to ensure that Trash to Cash is making this promise a reality.