Increasing the value of waste & creating social impact with sunglasses from chips packets


India-based start-up Ashaya focuses on increasing the value of waste, especially waste that is usually hard to recycle and ends up mostly in landfills - metalized multi-layered plastic packaging (MLP). Through innovative mechanical and chemical recycling processes the start-up turns this waste into high-quality materials and products that are more recyclable. Ashaya started first with recycled sunglasses and created a new brand “WITHOUT™” for this premium product. Offering a premium product allows them to then fairly redistribute that value to supply chain stakeholders, particularly the poorest: waste-pickers. For these reasons, the start-up was awarded as one of the best start-up solutions in the frame of the ISC3 Sustainable Chemistry Club and has been chosen as ISC3 Start-up of the Month for May 2023.

Year of Foundation:


Addresses the following SDGs:

SDG 1 (zero poverty), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production)


Two Indian men with sunglasses in front of a wall decoratded with colourfull chips packets
Ashaya's founder Anish Malpani (left) and Dr Jitendra Samdani (Research Scientist at Ashaya)
Two hands with gloves holding recycled pellets and dumbells
Ashaya's recycled material: pellets and dumbells
Mixed Group of Indian people with sunglasses in front of a wall decorated with colourfull chips packets
Ashaya`s team wearing their “WITHOUT™” sunglasses.

From rich to enriching lives of others

When you hear Anish Malpani (founder and CEO of Ashaya) speak, you can`t ignore the passion that drives him and the motivational spark that can be found in true leadership.
“When I was working in a corporate in the finance sector in the USA “making rich people richer” I realized that something is missing. I realized that I have a lot of privilege. Poverty is a man-made construct, a gross ignorance of justice. Poverty also isn’t just a lack of cash, it is multidimensional: it is a lack of access to healthcare, education, a decent standard of living, equal opportunity, and dignity,”
Anish starts. He wanted to use the privilege, do something better with his life and give more people opportunities to have the choices that he had. His learning journey about poverty and social impact that businesses have on people, brought him to local entrepreneurs in Guatemala and Kenia. Finally, back to his home country India, he saw the opportunity to make a positive impact, to empower the waste pickers collecting waste from landfills. According to Anish, the population of waste pickers in India is 1.5 to 4 million. They live very poor lives as the waste picking is not a real occupation, it is just a way of survival. At the same time, 50-80% of the waste in India is untreated and ends up in landfills.
“There's a lot of untapped potential in waste, because waste can be a resource. If you increase the value of waste, all the incentives align, there's incentive to collect waste, there's an incentive to recycle waste. So, the circular economy gets automatically incentivized,”
Anish explains. He identified the key barriers and realized ways to overcome them to fundamentally increase the value of waste starting with the multi-layered plastic packaging. Anish Malpani started working together with Jitendra Samdani (the scientific lead) and founded the company Ashaya in 2021. As the Sanskrit origin of the start-up name indicates, a company with purpose.

Sunglasses from chips packets

As mentioned, Ashaya is currently working on post-consumer metalized multi-layered plastic packaging (MLP), such as chips packets, for example. MLP is the least recycled type of plastic waste, and generally ends up in landfills. On one hand, it is a low-value, high volume, composite waste (up to 5-6 different types of materials) that is considered economically and technically “impossible” to recycle. On the other hand, for waste pickers it is easy to recognize it, because it is metallized. The start-up team applies chemical and mechanical processes to recycle this waste into high-quality materials and products that are more recyclable. They started first with recycled sunglasses made of these recycled materials and created a new brand “WITHOUT™” for this premium product. One of the reasons Ashaya chose sunglasses as their first product was inspiration from other similar projects tackling waste challenges, such as the Ocean Cleanup.
“We wanted to prove that this could have high end applications that are not conventional solutions for MLPs such as low-grade applications as bricks, for example,”
Anish explains. Their process can handle almost all types of contaminants and almost all types of plastic waste without significantly impacting final product. This includes not only metalized MLP, but also other types of plastics and flexible packaging including TetraPak, coloured PET bottles, polycotton textiles, hair, dust, tissue-paper and metalized paper plates. Ashaya is also testing their material regarding hazardous chemicals to ensure the safety in the material circle. They have already passed the test for substances of very high concern (SVHC) according to the REACH regulation and in the future, the start-up will eventually seek for the food-grade safety. Ashaya doesn't focus on maximizing profit, but on creating a sustainable business – offering a premium product to be able to pay better salaries, treat people well, create the right incentives and at the same time sustain the business and be able to compete on the market. The long term goal of Ashaya are B2B materials, which will be truly circular and follow the Cradle-to-Cradle principles.

Next up at Ashaya

Currently, Ashaya is looking to raise a round of funds to take their technology from the lab to the first recycling plan. Their long-term vision is to create decentralized “material cradles” or recycling centres at the sub-district level across India that process all types of municipal solid waste, formalize and incorporate the informal sector, and are financially sustainable, mini-manufacturing units.

Ashaya joined the ISC3 Global Start-up Service in the frame of the Sustainable Chemistry Club 2022 and was awarded as one of the best start-up solutions. With their innovative approach, the start-up contributes to SDG 1 (Zero Poverty) SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production).