Many of us are moving away from leather and plastics to more sustainable choices. So why not let bags join the list? While we’ve heard of organic bags made with starch and vegetable waste (the brainchild of NRI entrepreneur, Ashwath Hegde), there are even more creative options out there. From billboards to tea sacks, we bring you innovative makers and some quirky carryalls.
Coimbatore, Chennai and Erode generate over 30,000-40,0000 used tea sacks every month. But instead of ending up in landfills, most of them are upcycled into trendy yoga bags and messenger bags at Eco Trends, a social enterprise tucked away in Thiruppanandal, a village in the Thanjavur district. Founded by Ragulan Kadiresan in 2011, the outfit sources the water-resistant sacks from rag pickers across the State.
Kadiresan — who worked in the Netherlands as a designer till six years ago — has a network of experts in Europe who design his wares. Each bag has its own unique print, depending on the plantation the sack is sourced from. Like a yoga bag that has the logos of various tea factories in the Nilgiris. With a primarily female workforce, the solar power-run enterprise has also created employment for rural women. Since people in India are cost-conscious, Kadiresan adds that export orders constitute a majority of his business. Priced from €12 (₹840) onwards, the bags are currently being sold to Netherland-based companies, Ragbag and Geschenk met verhaal. For details, mail email@example.com.
As it turns out, tyres are great for more than just ensuring a smooth ride. Their inner tubes make sturdy bags, too. An innovation by international PETA-approved vegan brand, Eco Wings, the innards of discarded truck tyres are washed, cut and stitched into stylish laptop bags, backpacks, slings and pouches. They also make other accessories, including iPad cases and wallets. Since each tyre has its own texture, it ensures that every bag is unique. Waterproof and highly durable, these are perfect for everyday use. Over 50 tonnes of tyre tubes have been upcycled till now, says founder Kapil Sharma, who is against leather. “Our aim is to reduce every customer’s carbon footprint,” he states. Based in Madhya Pradesh, Eco Wings has expanded to over 13 countries since it was founded in 2012. Priced from ₹1,000 upwards. You can buy the bags on ecowings.in.
Recycled plastic products are old news. We’d like to introduce you to Handmade Recycled Plastic (HRP), a first in India. Mostly made from polythene bags — picked up from Delhi’s streets every day, and then sorted, washed and compressed — Kanika Ahuja, Director of Haryana-based organisation Conserve, says it is “an upcycling technique that uses much less energy than traditional recycling.” The ensuing sheets are used to produce anything from bags, footwear and home décor, to utensils and low-cost housing tiles. Since they started making bags in 2006, they have upcycled over 4,043 tonnes of plastic. And as the polythene bags come in vibrant shades, no dyes are required. Developed and patented by Conserve, they now upcycle seat belts, army tents, fire hoses, life jackets and even parachutes. Messenger bags created from upcycled flags used at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and HRP-woven carpets in bright stripes and checks are popular, too. They predominantly cater to global brands and retail chains abroad. Bags are in the $20 – $100 (₹1,290 – ₹6,410 approx) price range. For details, visit conserveindia.org.
- Why not make your carry bags and garbage bags eco-friendly, too? Chennai-based company Natur Tec uses bio-based and cornstarch-based compostable plastics to make them. “The bags compost at the same rate as food waste and this ensures easier waste management,” says Sunder Balakrishnan, Director, adding that they also make cutlery, food containers and coated paper products. For details, mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the slum tenements of Sathyavani Muthu Nagar, women are churning out colourful bags made with upcycled rexine billboards. Featuring digital prints of deities, sari models and birthday greetings, the billboards are collected from shops, before being washed, cut (according to the design) and stitched. From handbags, laundry bags and cycle carrier bags, to pencil cases, table mats and aprons, these ingenious products are created at the tailoring section of Baladarshan, a network of artisans and handicraft producers in South Chennai. A member of the World Fair Trade Organisation, they also create a range of handwoven baskets using LDPE (polyethylene wire). “We use two qualities – one coming from the petrochemical industry and the other from recycled PET granules,” says Frenchman and founder Philippe Malet. Priced from ₹300 onwards, the bags are available at their Chennai office and at Kirti Eco Boutique, Puducherry. Details: 044 64572188