Carrying manjapai bags, typically yellow in colour, is an age-old practice that lost momentum with time.

These bags are environmentally friendly alternatives to their plastic counterparts, so IAS officer Supriya Sahu and her team started a campaign to bring the manjapai bags back in vogue.

With their slogan ‘Meendum manjapai vizhipunarvu iyakkam’ (Back To Yellow Cloth Bags Awareness Campaign), the officer is trying to make the bags ‘retro-cool’.

She wants to bring in a sense of nostalgia, thereby inspiring people to discard single-use plastic carry bags.

“While the ban [on plastic bags] has been in place, we did find errant manufacturers and vendors falling back to using polythene covers. In order to put an end to that, the idea of returning to our roots and using that cloth bag was revived,” she says.

Supriya says that asking people to recollect memories attached to the bags also helped spread awareness.

“They recalled their grandparents diligently reaching for the bags every time they stepped out of the house. They would return, fold it and keep it away, and use it again and again. This would continue until that manjapai was tattered and ready to be retired,” she says.

Over the past 12 months, Supriya and her team have collected over 1,700 tons of disposable plastic waste.

Supriya is also working very closely with school children, with whom about 3,000 eco-clubs have been established. “We see them as the torchbearers for the future,” she says.

Additionally, she also wants to take these bags to district, panchayat and village levels to increase awareness, so that there is no demand for plastics in the state.

“The responsibility is upon us today. We don’t want to leave behind a polluted planet for future generations, and we should do everything in our power to tackle this issue,” she adds.