What is your bag made of? Mine is fashioned out of packets of chips. And yet, when you touch it, it feels like fabric.
Pune-based EcoKaari has taken it upon itself to transform disposed plastic waste into handwoven fabric. Started last year by Nandan Bhat, this organisation works with artisans who use the charkha and handloom to create this unique material which turn into fashion accessories, home décor and office stationery.
“EcoKaari was started to control waste management, especially that of the non-biodegradable and difficult-to-recycle plastic waste,” says Bhat, adding that a worrying 9.4 million tonnes of plastic is generated annually in India, and 100 million marine animals die each year, globally, as a result of plastic pollution .
The upcycled handwoven fabric is created in two sizes: 30 x 30 inches, for which 50-60 plastic wrappers are upcycled, and 19 x 36 inches, which uses 40-50 wrappers. Bhat says they collect the plastic waste; they are then washed and sanitised before being sun-dried. It is then segregated into different colours, cut, wound on a charkha and woven on a handloom. “Our weaving is entirely manual as we aim to create eco-social livelihoods,” he says.
An avid trekker, Bhat says he was pained to notice plastic wrappers dumped by the wayside and spoiling the scenic beauty. “Plastic bottles are picked up by waste pickers because it can be sold for some money. Wrappers earn them nothing due to its weight-volume ratio. So I thought, let’s do something about such plastic which no one recycles,” he adds.
EcoKaari works with four types of plastic waste: polythene bags (single-use plastic carry bags and grocery bags), multi-layered wrappers of cookies, chips, detergents, pulses and flour etc., gift wrappers and old audio and video cassette tapes. Apart from these, it also accepts bread packets, bubble wrap, foam, transparent plastic and plastic packets from online e-commerce portals such as Myntra, Amazon and Flipkart. “Such types of plastic is not recycled easily because of its multiple properties,” Bhat explains.
However, there are limitations to the kind of plastic EcoKaari can upcycle; they don’t take oil and milk packets (due to the smell and grease), small sachets of sauce, shampoo, tea or coffee, CDs and straws among others. To get its regular source of raw materials, the organisation has collaborated with NGOs in Pune that collect waste on a large scale. “We directly pay the waste pickers for their work thus creating an alternative earning channel for them,” Bhat adds.
You can also send your plastic waste to EcoKaari. For details, visit www.ecokaari.org