Making shopping bags out of old newspapers has been helping Delhi NGO Karm Marg fund its children’s home in Faridabad for years. It now needs more newspapers to make it fully self-sufficient

Among the readers of this write-up, there would certainly be some who have been shopping at the popular Delhi store People’s Tree, and may have been silently amused by the fact that their shopped items have been handed over in bags made of used newspapers.

A novel idea certainly, stands out in comparison to other shopping bags, and they are as sturdy as any paper bag would be. But importantly, they have been serving a purpose, a cause, other than bringing waste to use.

Karm Marg, a Delhi-based NGO, till some time ago, was supplying such bags to the store. KM’s initiative, run under the banner Jugaad, is impressive for the cause it has been serving. For over 15 years now, the activity has helped provide at least 50 per cent of the funds required to run its home for street and disadvantaged children in Faridabad.

Veena Lal, founder president of Karm Marg and Jugaad, now counts quite a few stores within and outside India for which it makes such newspaper bags that aid in running the home which houses 60 disadvantaged children between age 4 and 18 and provides them education, medical care besides skill development training for the older ones.

Says Lal, “People’s Tree helped us initially. It believes in helping smaller NGOs who are into this initiative, and we have grown a bit now. So we don’t supply bags to them anymore.” Jugaad supplies them to some other stores across India but its biggest customers are now outside the country. “We make newspaper bags for showrooms abroad which indulge in fair trade,” says Lal. The European market, she feels, “is particularly more aware of making good use of waste.” Better if it is linked to serve a cause. So Jugaad bags go to the homes of people who shop at say, Shared Earth in the U.K., Indus Tree in Australia, Saleraneio in Italy, Capcicum in The Netherlands among others. In India, among others, it supplies to stores like Eithier Or in Pune and Dastakar Andhra Pradesh.

So who makes these bags? Lal says, “Youth and women’s groups. Youth who came as children to our home and women from nearby villages. This is a part of income generation training that we give to people we work with.”

Lal recalls how the idea got cracking good 15-16 years ago. “It began as a street children project. When we started working with street kids (it also included children in and around the railway stations of Delhi), we felt that along with education, they also needed skill development for a bit of earning. They were used to collecting raddi (waste) from the trains and around the stations. They were anyway collecting newspapers from trains. So we thought why not help them make something out of these newspapers and that’s when this idea hit us.” One thing led to another and today, Lal says, “We need at least one quintal of newspapers per month to feed the need.”

So where do newspapers come from? “It has been mostly individuals and also some corporate houses who want to contribute to the cause.”

However, more the need has grown; more it has become difficult to keep the supply line of newspapers going. “When we started 15-16 years ago, it was a novel idea. Today, many NGOs are doing it. So supply is a problem. I plead here to all the corporate houses, hospitals and hotel chains to donate us their used newspapers in bulk,” she says. Importantly, Lal underlines, “The money earned contributes to 50 per cent of the funds required to run the home. The rest comes from donations but our aim is to make the home 100 per cent self-sufficient.”

How you can help

You can collect yours and like-minded friends’ and neighbours’ old newspapers at a place every month and request Karm Marg to collect them. If it is in small quantity, take the trouble to deliver them, say on a weekend.

How corporate houses, hospitals and hotels can help

Donate used newspapers in bulk to serve a cause instead of earning money by selling them. Those interested in donating can write to info@karmmarg.org. If it is in bulk, Veena Lal says, “We can get it picked up. Else, it becomes expensive for us.”