Saree Today Bag Tomorrow: All Women Group Recycles Old Sarees to Replace Plastic Bags


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In a move that both empowers women and instils environment friendly habits, an all women group from Kharghar – Yuvashakti – has started recycling old sarees that can be stitched up as bags. They are selling them to shopkeepers and local distributors.

Following the June 2005 deluge, all plastic bags under 50 microns were banned in Mumbai and shopkeepers selling them were told they would be fined heavily. Yet, every monsoon the roads overflow with sewage water because the drains are heavily clogged with thin plastic.

After the NGO YUVA screened a short film called Story of Stuff, based on the use of unnecessary stuff that creates waste, it’s subsidiary Yuvashakti came up with this interesting idea to use old sarees to make bags.

The aim is to replace plastic with biodegradable and sustainable material.

women using old sarees

Image for representation purposes only. Source: Flickr

“The project is called Avoid Plastic Bag. This was an opportunity to reduce use of plastic bags and generate income through it. Our group has a lot of women who have to stay back home but they want to do something to support their families,” said Indumathi Nirmal Kumar (38), member Yuvashakti, to DNA.

Avoid Plastic Bag kicked off with a preliminary survey at Kharghar, where the team spoke to shopkeepers, supermarkets and hawkers to ascertain the daily requirement of 500 to 1,000 bags. Then the women researched the cost of the plastic carry bags, which were being sold for Rs. 40 for a packet of 50 small bags.

For the pilot experiment the women approached two hawkers and supermarket dealers to sell these bags to and determined the cost of these cloth bags, which will be equivalent to the amount spent on the plastic bags by the dealers. “We will be collecting sarees till August 15 and then start with the pilot experiment. We are getting 1,000 bags stitched by a women self-help group in Kharghar,” she added.

“We will see the response of consumers for 2-3 weeks. It is beneficial for both the women in our group as well as the dealers. Also, as per demands, we will create a business model for women in our group who have skills and are willing to support their families financially,”she told DNA. 

If the project turns out to be a success, the group intends on expanding from Kharghar to other parts of the city to start similar initiatives.

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