Village Weaves, an enterprise started by Rupjyoti Saikia Gogoi of Bosagaon, a village near Kaziranga National Park in Golaghat district, Assam, is helping women convert plastic packets into home decor and utility items such as table mats, runners and mats.
Village Weaves was started by Rupjyoti to stop plastic from nearby villages getting dumped into the landfills. She describes her organisation’s attempt as a step towards protecting the environment, animals and birds. Her concern is not just with the soil getting affected but also the irresponsible handling of plastic bags that will find their way as food to grazing animals (wild and domestic). Burning plastic is not ideal, as it causes air pollution.
Rupjyoti clarifies that they do not collect plastic from garbage; they do not have the man power or the machinery to clean, dry and sanitise such plastic waste.
She explains, “We only use plastic bags from homes which would otherwise be disposed with everyday wet waste. In our villages, we don’t have to worry about wet waste because every home has a compost pit for it. I urge villagers to collect plastic shopping bags. Iteach them how to convert the bags into yarn and weave home utility products. Weaving is a common practice in Assam, so most women have and use looms at home. I just teach them how to recycle plastic and make an extra income selling them. This is our contribution to the environment protection.”
Owing to restrictions on the size of groups of people running small scale industries in an economic sensitive zone, it is difficult for villagers here to supplement their earning from farm produce. So the people of the villages surrounding Kaziranga have to manage with limited resources.
“We cannot set up more than a limited number of looms per household as the noise disturbs the ecology of the surroundings. All these restrictions are meant to protect the environment of the National Park and protect animal life. Since we have to work with the restrictions, we can only produce limited quantities of handloom products. This is not a solely profit-making activity. We want our initiative to be an example,” says Rupjyoti.
The products are appreciated by tourists, she says, adding that buyers are mostly from the expat community. “A lot of our products were bought by French tourists. They give us feedback too. We get orders mostly for runners and coasters. Since we do not have an effective courier service, we ship them through travel agents,” adds Rupjyoti.
Rupjyoti’s concern for the environment and the idea of recycling plastic came from her kitchen when she saw a plastic bag filled with more plastic bags. As one who teaches environment protection at a local school, she decided to set an example. “To begin with, I attended a few workshops and learnt the process. After successfully weaving plastic with thread, I decided to take my idea to the women of the nearby villages.”
Currently Village Weaves is looking at expanding their work to a couple of more villages. They want to make sure that each home is responsible for their own plastic covers and starts caring for the environment.