HelpUsGreen, a start-up incubated at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IIT-K) was chosen as one of the exceptional young leader projects to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations on Sunday.
HelpUsGreen, founded by a young engineer Ankit Agarwal together with Karan Rastogin three years ago, seeks to convert flowers offered in temples ,which are often thrown away as waste, polluting rivers and other water bodies, into biodegradable substitute to thermocol and fragrant incense sticks.
Agarwal was among the 17 young leaders selected from more than 8,000 youth from over 184 countries at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly currently in session in New York.
HelpUsGreen currently processes around 8.4 tonnes of floral waste from temples and mosques in Uttar Pradesh and converts them into biodegradable packaging material, charcoal-free incense sticks, and natural vermicompost.
According to Agarwal, over 8 million tonnes of flowers are used in different religious places as offerings. These flowers, a symbol of devotion, are subsequently discarded in the rivers like the Ganga, creating havoc in their fragile ecosystems and leach in the groundwater.
The start-up, supported by Tata Trusts through its Social Alpha programme, has developed a patented flower-recycling technology, which not only tackles the monumental temple waste in India, but also provide employment to people.
HelpUsGreen, which has so far recycled over 11,000 tonnes of floral waste, has been able to provide livelihood to 73 manual scavenging families, which now earn six times more than what they did earlier.