Not many people know this, but the items you recycle are not actually recycled in America, or anywhere anymore. Our recycling used to go to China, but as of two years ago, China implemented a ban on imported plastics.
The ban on plastic imports stemmed from the pollution that the recycling factories were responsible for. This doesn’t make sense to most people. How is something that’s supposed to be so good for the environment actually be another pollutant? This is because the cost for recycling in cities is so high, most people don’t bother.
Thus, upcycling was introduced. Instead of just throwing your plastics to an incinerator, people have found ways to make old products into something new. A local Hautian has taken an interest in this process. Shikha Bhattacharyya, owner of reTHink, an upcycling store, is doing her part to upcycle instead of recycle. This store lies right behind lSU at 608 N 13th street.
The store really became a reality in February of this year, but because of the pandemic, it couldn’t open until May 18th. The garden’s portion has been in motion since 2015, adding one or two more every year. Her main worry surrounding the environment is the effect it’s going to leave for future generations, her children. She says, “I don’t think enough people worry about it. People are just busy worrying about their lives and taking care of themselves.”
Something that also has driven her interest is her firsthand experience in health care. Shikha is a pharmacist. She can see the impact the environment has on our health and the role of pollution in disease. She worries because many people aren’t educated, even about day to day products we use. Shikha informed me that some household detergents and cleaners can actually cause asthma and allergies because of the products in them.
Shikha is very passionate about the environment. Her idea came because she wants to find solutions. “The recycling process is a very polluting process,” she says. “At the store, they take plastic, making sure it is clean, and shred it to use for other projects.”
An extension of the store is the multiple gardens throughout Terre Haute. Throughout the city, there are a total of six gardens between the store and 23rd street. She says that “gardening is another extension of sustainability”.
At the gardens you can find all sorts of fruits and vegetables including green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, and more. All of the produce is completely free. Her goal is to help the community surrounding the gardens and provide healthy food options.
There is also a program through the gardens to “adopt a bed”. This allows the community to grow their own fresh produce and have something to take care of. This sort of pushes the mantra, “what you give to the earth, the earth gives back”.
Besides the gardens, reTHink offers many upcycling products, as well as some local art. The products range anywhere from upcycled jewelry to reusable dryer balls.
As far as getting involved, there are many areas where students can be utilized. Shikha says that she welcomes anyone and can use any talents someone may have. If you’re interested in computers, you can help with social media or marketing. If you have a green thumb, the gardens always need help. Students can also help sort the plastic and make sure it is clean to be used. Adopting a bed can also help. The store provides all the tools needed, you just have to get your seeds and take care of the garden yourself.
Helping the environment and our earth is always within reach. It isn’t expensive and you can do it one step at a time. A lot of students worry about the initial costs, but in the end, more money is saved than spent. Playing a role in helping can range from using wash cloths instead of paper towels, using reusable sandwich backs, or simply using a non-plastic water bottle.
If you want to do your part, visit, volunteer, or shop at reTHink.
608 N 13th St.
Terre Haute, IN 47809