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How One Woman Is Recycling India's Flowers for Extended Life

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Much of India’s flower waste produced from religious ceremonies gets discarded in waterways and harms marine life. This chemical engineer’s idea could help reduce the country’s floral waste problem by providing a second and third use for the blooms. Join us in taking action to reduce pollution here.

India has always been known for its bounty of beautiful flora, with mountains of petals often spilling out of temples and across pathways in wedding ceremonies.

But a 26-year-old chemical engineer and eco-entrepreneur wants to give those petals an extended lifespan — by recycling the blooms for other uses, reported BBC.

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"I want to collect the floral waste and extract the essential oils from the fragrant part, the biomass, and then compost the rest of the biomass to produce organic manure, looking at completely recycling the flower waste," Parimala Shivaprasad, a postgraduate student at the University of Bath, told the BBC. "That manure could be used by small households or even the temples on their vegetable patch, because usually temples tend to feed people on a daily basis."

Oftentimes, flowers used in religious ceremonies are discarded in nearby channels, adding to India’s already polluted waterways.

While the cast-off petals may look pretty as they ripple across the water, organic matter from rotting flowers contributes to the growth of algae, noted the report, which can deplete oxygen levels and cause marine life to die.

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Shivaprasad told the BBC that approximately 2 million tons of floral waste in India are discarded every day after religious ceremonies. Nearly all of it could be recycled using the process she has developed.

"The early idea is to scale up the lab equipment I have to accommodate about five kilos of flower petals to work with on a daily basis and run the extraction unit for about eight hours a day," she said.

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"An entrepreneur was totally unexpected for me because I was getting into my PhD,” added Shivaprasad. “But, I really enjoy both being in the university and the journey so far as an entrepreneur."

She is not alone in her passion pursuit: Earlier this year, other Indian entrepreneurs were spotlighted by Fast Company for their business, Helpusgreen, which produces a range of products from the sacred blooms, including incense sticks, enriched compost and bathing soaps.