Going Zero Waste

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Going Zero Waste

Punah is a unique approach to creating an alternative global material library using industrial waste and manufacturing expertise by Godrej & Boyce. Punah is a different approach, which seeks to look at every facet of manufacturing to tackle the issue of rising consumption and decreasing natural resources at its root. Giving a sneak peek into the project possibilities & opportunistic paradigms, Hemmant Jha, Chief Design Officer – Innovation & Design Center, Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd., enlightens us on the sustainable expanse ahead…

India’s growing manufacturing ambition is going to bring global issues of excessive waste with it. In response to this, Godrej & Boyce is moving towards a circular economy by considering industrial waste as a valuable resource. The team behind the ambitious project adopted a unique approach, moving towards a more sustainable manufacturing practice by taking accountability of its own footprint and being transparent about waste generation. The Punah Project, incubated by the ‘Innovation & Design Centre’ at Godrej & Boyce in India, came to life in February 2015 to address these issues. As initiators of the Punah Project, the team’s emphasis revolves around developing alternative applications for non-hazardous industrial waste through material design and research.

The germination seed

*Punah is an ancient Sanskrit term that literally means ‘again’, coming full cycle. The Punah Project by Godrej & Boyce (GnB) is a unique approach to creating an alternative global material library using industrial waste, conversion processes and manufacturing expertise. We work with the assumption that waste is not ‘bad stuff’ or trash, rather remnants from any manufacturing process. As such, this new palette of materials can be put to creative use in new sorts of products and applications. We strive to responsibly upcycle every time.

Rising consumption and decreasing natural resources require many new and innovative approaches within the business of manufacturing. Globally, commendable work is being done to contain its impact on the environment. Punah is a different approach which seeks to look at every facet of manufacturing to tackle the issue at its root. Godrej recognizes that India’s growing manufacturing ambition will bring with it global issues of waste, from rapid resource depletion to disposal. Punah was created at the Design & Technology Group at the G&B Innovation and Design Center (IDC) to proactively counter rapid resource depletion.

A multi-faceted team ranging from designers, engineers and makers explored over 600 waste materials generated in the 25 manufacturing plants of GnB. These waste types are rigorously documented and categorised with important data on aspects such as quantities, composition, resale value and disposal route. 

Challenges along the way

Since we’re working across so many industries and so many materials, just collecting raw information on each in a rigorous way was an incredible effort. Standardization of systems for documenting waste across all manufacturing plants was one of the initial challenges as each plant was following its own systems. And since a project of this scale is new to the world, we’ve had to create our own internal systems to enable it.

Tangible gains achieved

Sustainability has been an integral part of Godrej’s endeavor to re-invent itself continually to meet the challenges of the future. Through this project, we are encouraging a deeper understanding of sustainability. This ultimately reflects in the approach to industrial waste and its management. We are designing processes to focus on elimination of waste wherever feasible. We are also promoting usage of waste material instead of virgin materials.

Punah makes us think differently about waste:

  • Used as is, waste can be a new palette of materials for designers
  • Transform / reconstitute it into something usable in conventional processes
  • Figure out how to reduce it significantly and / or remove it completely.

Sustainability quotient

We have seen the words `sustainability’ and `green’ used loosely and used often. In common usage, these terms become meaningless unless people have a frame of reference or context within which to understand their true meaning and value. By quietly and consistently integrating our work into mainstream products, we will, over a period of time show how these ideas can be brought to life in a meaningful way.

Learnings gained

As initiators of the Punah Project, we have focused on developing alternative applications for non-hazardous industrial waste through material design and research. We aim to adopt a zero-waste policy across all the Godrej & Boyce manufacturing sites. The applications of the waste material are a result of our extensive research on over 600 materials and several collaborations with different manufacturing teams at Godrej & Boyce as well as skilled craftsmen and designers across India. We have also learned that none of this is easy, and that it is only through constant, consistent, collaborative work that we can meaningfully deploy the fruits of the Punah initiative at scale. Punah is an example of how sustainability is a multi-layered subject and exciting design challenge.

Innovations ahead

Godrej Design Lab, in its 3rd year of operation, aims to bring the creative efforts of young Indian designers to life. Through an open competition, we select ten promising young designers every year, help them develop their ideas through mentorship, prototyping resources (machines, materials, processes) and make these ideas real. The work is documented, and the work done during the year, including finished prototypes are showcased, along with the designers themselves, at the India Design in Delhi. Particularly promising results are then turned into saleable collections in participation with G&B businesses and brought into the world for a larger audience to experience and enjoy.

Collaborating for a better future

G&B makes everything from locks to satellites, from a wide, wide range of materials ranging from wood to steel to carbon fiber composites, in quantities that range from a few grams to hundreds of tonnes - so this is quite an undertaking - quite possibly the first of its kind anywhere at this scale. Through research and experimentation, the team has developed new materials using the diverse manufacturing facilities and expertise of skilled workers. This will be made available to the world – other companies, schools and universities, individuals in the form of an open source library of materials and processes. We will invite others to contribute and help make it stronger. The IDC team is also collaborating with progressive design companies and individuals in different sectors to convert these new materials into products.

In conclusion, Punah is a two-sided approach to industrial waste- building a viable business platform able to generate a relevant impact on Godrej and encouraging a cultural-shift amongst end consumers, exposing them to the material streamline that goes into everyday products, making consumers aware and demand more from the ecosystem surrounding those products.

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