From trash to treasureOne person’s trash is another person’s treasure, so goes the old adage, but two women—Ojaswi Baidya and Loonibha Manandhar—seem to have taken this saying to heart. They are co-founders of Tyre Treasure, a company that turns old, used tyres from cars, trucks and buses into recycled furniture.
One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, so goes the old adage, but two women—Ojaswi Baidya and Loonibha Manandhar—seem to have taken this saying to heart. They are co-founders of Tyre Treasure, a company that turns old, used tyres from cars, trucks and buses into recycled furniture.
Baidya and Manandhar come from two very different backgrounds—Environment Science and Business Administration, respectively—but they struck a chord with each other when they met at the ‘Greenovation Start-Up Challenge’, a competition organised by WWF and the Nepal Entrepreneur Hub, to find innovative ideas that had a sustainable ‘green’ component to them. Having pitched and listened to various green and progressive ideas during the four weeks of the competition, Baidya and Manandhar initially wanted to get into solid waste management.
Their first idea was for a digital app that would help people divide and manage their waste. But they scrapped the idea once they started looking into what happened to old discarded tyres.
In Nepal, tyres are waste—after they get worn out, they are simply sent to brick kilns and burnt or deposited haphazardly on the banks of the Bagmati. But burning tyres releases carcinogens such as benzene and butadiene which not only pose harmful threats to the environment but can also lead to inflammation in the lungs and respiratory problems.
“There had to be a way to reuse these tyres and prevent them from causing further harm to health and the environment,” says Manandhar.
The duo took a year as their ‘research period’, which was when they did everything from finding out what the Nepali market accepts and promotes to the ideal market for an innovative craftsmanship idea. Following numerous trial-and-error progressions, they landed on the idea of making furniture and décor items out of thrown-away tyres and tyre tubes.
“Tyre tubes, being durable, moldable and comfortable, are the perfect items to elevate the entire look of the space you choose to put it in,” says Baidya.
Tyre Treasures officially started in November 2017, and the duo have been hard at work filling indoor spaces in Nepali households and restaurants with recycled furniture. The primary components of their products, apart from the eponymous tyres, are wood, metal and rope. They started off making tables and chairs, called ‘dhukutis’ and ‘sar jayanthis’, with wood or metal for the legs and rope to cover the tyres. These tables and chairs added a homespun and rustic look to living rooms, bedrooms and lobbies.
“For any company to prosper, it needs an audience and validation. Tyre Treasures didn’t have either at the beginning,” says Manandhar. There were preconceived notions about their products being ‘trash’ and a clear market preference for non-biodegradable plastic furniture that was flimsy and short-lived. The duo thus faced countless refusals.
“What doesn’t break you makes you stronger. That is what we’ve learned throughout our journey,” says Baidya.
One initial problem was the acquisition of the tyres themselves. The tyres, which are purchased from local automobile shops in Patan, were hard to come by, as shop owners received a bigger payout from brick kilns. Baidya and Manandhar now partner with a number of auto workshops as ‘Green Partners’ who sell them tyres for reasonable prices as part of their ‘social responsibility’.
One major challenge was to change the perception that tyres are unhygienic and unsuitable for the home. While this might be true for tyres that come off vehicles, Tyre Treasures’ team of seven works to clean and sanitise the products before they are designed and customised.
Take, for an example, their product—Tommy’s Turf. A tyre, once obtained from auto-shops, is brought to the Tyre Treasure workshop in Kupondole, where it is washed and sterilised. After that, the tyres are designed and customised according to the customer’s preferences. Under a set theme, artists work on designs for the tyres and the cushion. In order to make the cushion more comfortable and durable, Tyre Treasures has partnered with an organisation called Banners 2 Bags which specialises in turning used flex into new material. The outer part of the cushion is weaved using kaalo kapaas,waste cotton,while the inside is filled with flex. Thus, Tommy’s Turf, a perfect bed for your pet, is ready.
After receiving positive feedback from customers, Baidya and Manandhar have now decided to fabricate their items to fit into the ambience of offices. “We stopped using ropes and rather, focused on building the artistic look of the tyres so that they would fit into lobby areas, gardens and terraces,” says Baidya. Their range of products now include tables, chairs, mats, pet beds, wall hangings, and room decor materials. The cost of their products range from Rs 9,500 to Rs 14,000, depending on the level of customisation the product underwent, and are available at various stores, such as Maya ko Chino and Little Things, both in Jhamsikhel.
As more and more people realise that there can be value in what is considered waste, upcycling and recycling companies such as Tyre Treasures will start to get more opportunities and a bigger market for their products.
“We hope that this growing interest for upcycled and recycled products isn’t just a fad,” say Manandhar and Baidya. “We are capable of preventing the harm done to Mother earth through the small steps we take. Tyre Treasures is just one of these steps.”