In 2019, Anusweta, a resident of Hailakandi in Assam, saw her hometown ravaged by floods.

While the water receded from her home, the horrors of the incident haunted her for months. She decided she would do something about it.

That’s how she decided to turn plastic bottles into life jackets.

In 2021, she found an exciting opportunity to bring her idea to life. “My teachers told me about a national-level science competition, and I decided to participate with my friend and partner Pooja Das,” she says.

“I tied 15 bottles to myself and went into the water to see if it works. To my surprise, it did, and I was floating. This made me realise that a plastic bottle that we usually throw away can be so useful and save a life,” she exclaims.

Anusweta and Pooja participated in the National Children’s Science Congress and made it to the state level. They also went on to win a silver medal in the India International Innovation and Invention Expo (INEX 2022).

However, the real test of her jackets came in 2022, when the neighbouring district Silchar was flooded.

Anusweta and Pooja, asked students and teachers at their school to help them to make these life jackets in bulk. They then sent 200 life jackets for free to the rescue teams.

She upcycled 400 plastic bags/sacks and more than 1,000 plastic bottles to make the 200 life jackets.

The jacket can be made using three materials — a plastic bottle, plastic sack, thread and a needle. It only requires Rs 150 to be set up.

The life jacket comes in three sizes — small, medium and large. The large one can keep up to 110 kg of weight afloat.

“There were a lot of calculations, trials and failures involved in the process, but the best part is that the jackets helped people. I am looking to expand more on the idea, and I am also trying to find ways in which the jackets can be made more easily available in flood-prone areas,” says Anusweta.