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 environmental issues.
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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