Ecobags – Innovative, eco-friendly paper bags by Pahal – India
With Ecobags, the humble paper bag has been redesigned into a tough, reusable tote that offers a
potential cottage industry for poor city-dwellers. Ecobags employ an innovative design that
recycles simple materials and can be cheaply and easily assembled en masse. This project provides
an alternative to environmentally harmful single-use plastic bags, along with a business
opportunity for the urban poor.
- 200 women trained in Ecobag production
- More than 200,000 Ecobags produced
- Mahindra deemed Ecobags “best project under social enterprise” for 2013
Uttarakhand in the Himalayas of northern India has long faced pollution concerns. Lack of a proper waste
disposal system and no measures to check the use of non-biodegradable material have made cleanliness and
ecological balance a distant dream. Truckloads of garbage are being dumped on the land and even in regional
water bodies. The vast majority of this waste consists of non-biodegradable material – mostly plastic
bags and related items. In response, the government banned plastic bags, but this leaves a gap in how to
carry purchased wares.
Ecobags provide a clean, safe, and eco-friendly alternative. Made of 100 per cent biodegradable material
– old newspaper bags, jute twine, and flour-based adhesive – Ecobags can bear a stronger load
than conventional bags. Two layers of used newspaper are pasted together with a thin piece of rope in an
innovative design, resulting in a bag that can carry 2.5 kilograms.
The durable and reusable bags can be mass-produced by self-help groups in common facility centers, and then
sold to the public. Since being introduced into the local markets of the Nainital District, Ecobags has
filled the demand for an alternative to plastic bags, and they are gaining in popularity.
Helping the planet
Ecobags not only recycle material that would be going to waste, they also eliminate the need for single-use
plastic bags that have proven to harm the environment. Made from petroleum, plastic bags fuel extraction of
fossil resources. They also present a serious disposal problem. It takes centuries for plastics bag to
break down in nature, burning them releases poisonous chemicals, and in oceans, plastic trash harms a
number of marine species. Non-toxic Ecobags, on the other hand, conserve the environment by harmlessly
biodegrading after numerous uses.
Production of Ecobags provides a sustainable source of income that producers, mostly poor women, can use to
support themselves and their families. Reducing plastic waste and conserving natural resources through
recycling, helps the community as a whole. As a result, these communities have become more aware of
This project could be applied among India’s sizeable population of underemployed women working in
informal sectors. Setting up an Ecobags workshop requires little resources, and production can be scaled up
or down as needed.
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