From toothbrushes, toys, and stationery to shopping bags, and utensils, almost everything we use in our day-to-day lives is either made entirely of plastic or certain parts of it.
For 66-year-old Rita Maker, this was always a concern, but she didn’t know what to do.
“I’d always nurtured this wish of doing something for the environment but didn’t know where to start. Being a senior citizen, it wasn’t quite feasible for me to step out and engage with conservation initiatives. What I wanted to do was contribute in some way from my home,” says the Mumbai resident to The Better India.
Rita expressed this wish to her daughter, Rachita, and shares that the idea somewhat amused her.
“She laughingly told me, ‘You can’t do something for the environment by sitting at home. That’s not how it works.’ But I didn’t lose heart and kept looking out for ways as to what I could do to make this happen.”
In 2016, Rita came across a video of women making mats from Walmart shopping bags on the Internet and was immediately inspired.
“I had the skill and time, and raw material was no problem as plastic bags walked in with every purchase we made. So without giving a second thought to this, I got started,” Rita says.
While DIY videos always appear easy with their step-by-step details, the process of making plarn (plastic+yarn) and then crocheting it to create mats, bags and different lifestyle, as well as functional products, is not a simple task.
Check out some of the products that Rita has made:
But Rita was on a mission! After exhausting the shopping bags in no time, she moved on to plastic bags and covers she could find in her kitchen.
“All kinds of plastic bags that I came across, went into upcycling; thereby preventing them from reaching the roads, drains or the oceans and wreaking havoc. ‘Jo Plastic Ghar Aaye, Kuchh Bankar Baahar Jaate’ became my mantra,” shares Rita.
So what does she do with these handcrafted, upcycled products?
“I started with making mats which were distributed to the service staff in our residential complex, and ideas started pouring in. From mats, I then went about to making clutches, bags, baskets, tea coasters, etc. that I would gift to my family members and friends. But given the time and effort it took, I understood that having another pair of hands will speed up the process. So I employed an assistant—my former house help—who makes time to help me in my endeavours and in return, I pay her for her work,” adds Rita.
Except for putting her products on sale once during the Makers Mela in the city earlier this year, Rita doesn’t really sell what she makes.
“I’m not doing any of this for money. Even the money I received from the stall and the people who personally purchased the bags and other products from me on request, has been routed to charities,” she clarifies.
Rita happily shares that has organised sessions for kids during the holiday, and efforts have inspired two women from her apartment complex, who took to upcycling plastic bags into trendy products. She hopes that more people take up this activity, instead of approaching her to make use of plastic bags that they have hoarded.
“There is only so much one can do, and at my age, it isn’t quite possible for me to take all these plastic bags home. I hope just the way that one video inspired me to take up this task, more people would be stirred to do their bit for the environment,” Rita adds.
We love Rita’s drive and the painstaking efforts that she has been taking for the environment.
“A handbag made from milk covers easily repurposes 400 to 500 units that would otherwise go down the drain. There is so much we can do and in such creative ways. This is perhaps the best way we can individually work towards eradicating the menace of plastic—one that doesn’t need you to go out there but still make a difference,” she signs off.
Check how Rita’s videos on how she embarked upon this mission here.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)