Kutch girls flip plastic waste to luggage and yoga mats

Stacked in a neat pile in Rajiben Vankar’s home in Kutch’s Ahmednagar village is a bounty of plastic luggage. On a garments line are rows of washed luggage drying underneath the solar. Rajiben is sitting on a standard loom, weaving strips of plastic into vibrant sheets; these will probably be made into luggage, yoga mats and spectacle covers, amongst different merchandise. She is likely one of the many ladies in Kutch’s villages who’re utilizing their conventional data of weaving to handle an environmental situation of huge proportions — plastic air pollution. She was awarded the Swachh Sujal Shakti Samman 2023 by the President of India.


Additionally learn: Single-use plastic waste rose worldwide despite pledges

India generates enormous quantities of plastic waste every year: the determine was 3.4 million tonnes in 2019-20 .

Kutch girls make luggage and mats from plastic waste

“I’ve been weaving plastic for greater than 10 years now and thru these years, as increasingly girls have joined this initiative, I can see our villages changing into clear of plastic waste,” says Rajiben. “Ladies have gotten extra acutely aware about plastic air pollution affecting our well being and no matter plastic waste we discover, we use it to weave issues.”

Spectacle circumstances produced from waste plastic
| Photograph Credit score:
Vijay Soneji

Native resolution

Rajiben is likely one of the first girls to have been educated in plastic weaving by Khamir, an NGO that works with craftspeople. The concept was generated when a French designer visiting the NGO was requested to design merchandise manufactured from native waste materials again in 2009. “Plastic weaving was conceived as a attainable resolution to handle a modern-day drawback equivalent to plastic waste, utilizing conventional expertise. It additionally generates earnings for ladies and concrete waste collectors,” says Ghatit Laheru of Khamir. The weaving is completed on each pit looms and body looms with a couple of modifications. Robust plastic thread or cotton is used for the warp and various plastic waste is used for the weft.

Washed plastic bags drying on a clothes line

Washed plastic luggage drying on a garments line
| Photograph Credit score:
Vijay Soneji

There are 5 principal phases on this course of: plastic assortment, washing and drying, slicing into strips, weaving, and eventually, stitching into completely different merchandise. Ranjanben, who works on plastic weaving at Khamir, says plastic waste is collected from households in residential colonies in addition to industrial areas. Colleges are a set level too. That is carried out with the assistance of waste pickers. The Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS) is one such assortment supply the place girls waste pickers are concerned in plastic assortment.

“We lastly minimize the luggage into strips — no more than half an inch in width — that are then woven into sheets of various sizes relying on what’s to be made,” says Ranjanben. It takes round 20 plastic luggage to make a purchasing bag. Khamir recycles on a mean 60 kilos of plastic a month.

Street to independence

Curiously, girls in Kutch historically don’t function the loom. It’s often males who sit on the loom, whereas girls are part of the pre- and post-loom course of. It was solely after Khamir’s intervention that ladies learnt to function the loom.

Rajiben however, was already a trailblazer in her village. At age 13, when her father, a weaver, turned severely sick, she determined to be taught weaving and take over his vocation with the intention to feed her household of seven youngsters. “My father was not completely satisfied; stated it could be paap (sin) to let a lady sit on the loom however I did so anyway,” she says. Later, when she bought married, she was once more off the loom for 12 years. Then one other tragedy struck. Her husband died, leaving her alone to fend for herself and her three youngsters. “As soon as once more I turned to the loom to rescue me. Khamir was in search of girls to begin its plastic weaving challenge and once they got here to know that I knew methods to weave, they had been very completely satisfied.” After she learnt the method, Rajiben began coaching others.

Plastic bags being cut into strips

Plastic luggage being minimize into strips
| Photograph Credit score:
Vijay Soneji

Bhavna Vankar, a plastic weaver, says it’s a blessing to have the ability to earn whereas working from dwelling. “Our households don’t cease us from weaving as a result of we’re capable of earn whereas being at dwelling,” she says.

Could be replicated

Based on Ranjanben, girls concerned in plastic weaving earn something between ₹3000 and ₹6000 a month. Rajiben began her personal enterprise of plastic weaving in 2018 and now works with at the least 60 girls in numerous villages, changing waste plastic to completed merchandise equivalent to luggage, plastic trays, tea coasters and yoga mats. “I bought my first loom from Khamir. Thereafter, I joined my village Sakhi Mandal and took a mortgage to purchase one other loom. Then an organisation known as Kaarigar Clinic started serving to me with my work, to design and market our merchandise; additionally they gave me a loom,” she says.

Most of those recycled plastic merchandise discover takers in city markets — by means of on-line orders — in cities equivalent to Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. They’re additionally bought at exhibitions and festivals and are on show in Khamir’s crafts retailer, which attracts a lot of vacationers, each home and worldwide.

“This whole recycling is completed by hand; there is no such thing as a machine used. So it may be simply replicated in all places,” says Laheru. Rajiben, for example, was invited by an NGO to coach 400 Adivasi girls in Mumbai on plastic weaving just lately. “My greatest takeaway from this challenge is that it helps us clear the environment. In villages, folks are actually not utilizing or burning plastic as a lot as earlier than,” says Rajiben.

The author is a contract journalist primarily based in Kutch.

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