How sustainable is Bhar ?

Sustainability Research and Design






Circular economy.

Customised product culture.

Sustainable standards.


Railway minister Piyush Goyal fits the clay cup into daily consumption and promotes its use in India. Collection Bhar adds a strategy to ensure sustainability standards and thus an international interest.


Politicians as well as tea drinkers are convinced that Bhar is a good sustainable solution. But how sustainable is Bhar and what is needed to transform the traditional cup into a solution for the future?

How sustainable is Bhar?

Sustainable solutions require a broad perspective on changes in a positive and negative way. The features of Bhar have an impact on culture, the environment and the technological state.

Risks and options that are part of the cup are visualised through an assessment according all sustainability aspects. These are the topics which are addressed in the best possible solution by a cooperation of all stakeholders.

The diagram shows various obstacles within all 4 sectors and could lead to a new organisation of the entire product culture. For example, the requirements for a sustainable solution impart to create a unified pottery institution that is able to control the supply of raw clay and to make sure that no soil depletion occurs, nor unhealthy clay is delivered to the craftspeople. Reintroducing Bhar needs to rethink the effect of traditional production methods on the potter's health and safety as well as on the natural air condition. Taking the advantage of change could direct a fair price regulation and politically stand up for more equality and foster women to enter the Bhar business.

Circular economy.

Bhar's material terracotta has a great impact on the Indian product culture since over 5,000 years. The clay cup got mainly replaced by plastic during industrialisation and has been exchanged for more convenience but a strong negative influence on nature.

Bhars are made to be used only once and hence crafted roughly and lower fired at about 800 degrees Celsius. Since they are made of a natural material that disintegrates into sandy soil, consumers developed the habit to throw away the cup into the environment.


Reusing unbroken Bhars complies increasingly with upcoming demands by the Railway Minister. Recycling terracotta opens up various possibilities.

Process of recycling Bhar

Recycling Bhars solves the issue to handle the abundance of disused terracotta in India. Terracotta is a porous material that absorbs and stores liquids within a very short time. For these reasons, the discarded material is simple to grind and the new resource easy to manufacture. After use, the disposed of cups need to be purified by heating at around 100 degrees Celsius to kill all bacteria. Different applications direct a suitable grinding degree which is easy to control and for example manageable from the potters themselves.

Supplying for recycling

The strategy builds on a research about urban product culture in Kolkata, West Bengal.

The old tea ritual involves smashing Bhar on the ground. However, tea vendors in Kolkata provide dustbins at their stalls to keep streets clean. The bins are emptied by street sweepers, cups are brought to near by landfills, separated, and mostly used as fill material in road construction.


An assessment of the existing waste system in Kolkata offers opportunities to extend or apply on a national level and for the Indian railway.

For Kolkata

For Indian Railway

Customised product culture.

The culture around the Indian clay cup developed over several hundred years. In the National Museum Kolkata, Bhar as it is today is exhibited with the tag 2nd century. Such an old product can lose its cultural presence.


To guarantee a circular economy Collection Bhar needs to have a special focus on reconciling user's responsibilities and to appreciate customer's needs.

Feedback loop

Part of the product culture includes the relationship between the user and the product. Between Bhar and its consumers it is sincere but outdated. The strategy to recycle the discarded terracotta establishes a change of the user's feedback on the cup. The traditional idea of a disposable cup that turns into waste is refreshed by the concept of a collectable cup that is recyclable. This includes a different mindset of waste disposal and improved attention for a sustainable user behaviour.

Service map

Besides an advanced circular economy it needs joint forces to implement the idea in India.

An elaborated service map visualises the necessity of creating a team of guiding institutions like political authorities to introduce Bhar as a sustainable solution but focussing on preserving the cup's traditional craftsmanship.

All graphics are developed and designed by Hanne Viehmann. All rights reserved.

Feedback Loop and Service Map are developed according to methods by The Circular Design Guide,

Sustainable standards

All nations that have signed the agreement to implement the SDGs by 2030 set individual targets and achievable standards. Bhar has the opportunity to help achieve or re-understand some of the terms. Recognising the full impact of Bhar on the Indian culture, the environment, the economy, and technology, the small cup has the chance to become an internationally respected role model for sustainable actions.

Collection Bhar is able to achieve:

Protecting nature.

Zero single-use terracotta.

A sustainable relationship between product and user.

The feel of responsibility for own actions.

Desire for more heritage.

An increased value of waste and resources.

An organised material flow.

Collection Bhar intends to appeal to Indian policymakers to make further decisions to capture the bigger picture of Bhar.

The cup needs eco-controls and an organisation of resource mining, preservation of natural soil conditions, and a regulation of air pollution. Bhar calls for an individual disposal system in India and an adjustment of waste behaviours. The policy should offer assurance of the people's health and safety producing, consuming and collecting the clay cups. It should ensure equal support for all potters, tea sellers and consumers. Access to clay cups and costs need to be aligned with plastic cups and plastic removed from the market. Regulation of the market for supply and demand requires feasibility and an adequate financial compensation to potters.


© All rights reserved, 2021. Content developed as well as photos and graphics owned by Hanne Viehmann, Impressum