Bags of Delight
Plastic bags are pervasive in today’s world as they are helpful in carrying a variety of products, are strong and durable, and resistant to water. The unfortunate downside is that many plastic bags are discarded after use or as they give way. These bags often reach landfills and water bodies, where they affect natural life, the earth and water as they take decades or even centuries to degrade. Further, they often do not decompose completely but into micro-plastics that pollute the environment
In recent years, environmentalists, designers and concerned citizens have been working on reducing the use of plastic bags as well as on increasing the recycling and upcycling of plastic bags. In this context is a heartening initiative by a simple enthused woman –Rajiben Vankar.
Rajiben -a resident of Kotay village, that is located on the edge of the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat and about thirty kilometres from the town of Bhuj- hails from the traditional weavers’ community, and has always had weaving and craft cruising through her veins.
The tragic, untimely passing away of her husband thrust Rajiben into the role of being provider for the family at a young age. To generate income, she started weaving textiles at Khamir, an NGO based in Kutch.
It was during this time that Rajiben met a designer who had brought a bag woven out of plastic to show the weavers. Seeing the bag set Rajiben thinking. She thought of the discarded plastic in the village and sensed a potential in working with the medium, in the value of recycling and upcycling plastic.
Rajiben adroitly adapted her skills to start weaving plastic to create a range of attractive and functional products with a universal appeal. The range spans shopping bags, vegetable bags, totes, cosmetic and pencil pouches, spectacle cases and trays.
The process of weaving the bags involves collecting, cleaning and sorting the bags; cutting them into long strips; and then hand-weaving these strips on a traditional loom! It is a meticulous task as the process more time and energy consuming than weaving with cotton yarns. Yet, it is one that is fundamentally eco-friendly: 70 single-use plastic bags are woven into every meter of hand-woven sheets and a happy by-product is a cleaner village!
As Rajiben’s creative, attractive, functional and attractive work caught attention and demand for the products increased, she started training women in the village who were keen to learn the craft and earn an income. In this process, Rajiben turned environmentalist as well as entrepreneur! Her initiative now embraces fifteen enterprising women artisans. The team has upcycled 10,000,00+ single-use bags and counting!
The range of attractive functional products crafted by Rajiben and her team of wonderful women artisans is available at the ARTISANS’ gallery-store as well as on-line at the ARTISANS’ website.
Author: Brinda Gill