Tamil Nadu

Double impact: cloth bags, tailoring get a push

Hands on: Women at a workshop on making cloth bags in Tiruchi.

Hands on: Women at a workshop on making cloth bags in Tiruchi.   | Photo Credit: SpecialArrangement

Tiruchi-based groups are engaged in intiatives like bag swaps and workshops to impart DIY skills

The ban on plastic packaging, particularly carry bags, needs governmental and popular support to be truly effective, say social welfare advocacy groups.

“People have got habituated to using plastic in nearly every aspect of life, whether it is for packing food or groceries, or even to carry temple offerings. We have to change this mindset and show the public the advantages of using alternative products that are eco-friendly and reusable,” K.C. Neelamegam, Secretary, Thanneer, a non-governmental organisation active in environment conservation, told The Hindu.

Thanneer has been running anti-plastic awareness programmes for the past five years in Tiruchi. Among its recent initiatives was a ‘bag swap’ outside temples, where Thanneer volunteers exchanged the plastic packets carried by worshippers with cotton bags.

“Natural fibres like cotton are ideal for bags, because they are biodegradable. Plus, if we really revive the cloth bag tradition in the State, their production would provide jobs to many people in the tailoring and printing sectors,” said Mr. Neelamegam.

Procured at a cost of ₹7-12 per bag from a wholesaler in Karur, Thanneer’s bags can carry up to 2-3 kg of groceries.

Affordable alternative

“Compared to cotton, plastic bags cost just 20 paise apiece. If the authorities can make cloth bags more affordable, the ban on plastic packaging will be easier to implement,” he said.

Reviving a skill

Empowerment group Yugaa has been trying to revive not just the cloth bag, but also a skill that was once stock-in-trade for most women in Tamil Nadu: the art of tailoring.

“In the first stage of our eco-awareness drive, we distributed 1,000 cloth bags stitched by women’s self-help groups to shop owners and the public. But then we realised that there is a huge pool of talented women in the city that can be tapped for stitching their own bags,” said Allirani Balaji, president, Yugaa.

For the past two months, Yugaa has been teaching homemakers to make cloth bags through workshops organised by the Women Readers’ Forum at the District Central Library in Tiruchi. “We found the participants were eager not just to stitch their bag, but also to embellish it with needlework and fabric painting. With so much creativity on display, we decided to encourage our participants by giving prizes for the best bags,” said Ms. Allirani.

With bag-making emerging as a potential target for corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects, more could be done to define the way ahead.

“Many women are willing to work on the commercial stitching of cloth bags, but they lack the right platform to market their products. We are planning to hold a workshop in January to guide the interested home-based entrepreneurs,” said Ms. Allirani.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 2:28:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/double-impact-cloth-bags-tailoring-get-a-push/article25784934.ece

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