By Rajkumar Bhavasar
The world today is grappling with plastic pollution challenge. We have become addicted to single-use or disposable plastic with grave environmental consequences. It is true that plastic is valuable and when used wisely, plastic and environment can live in harmony.
About 300 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced every year in the world. Plastic pollutes lakes, blocking sewers, drains and gutters and is generally a menace to the environment. To counter this, Governments have banned single use plastic and have enforced restrictions on production and sale.
Despite proven environmental justifications, the ban ignited anger and fear across the industry and many plastic workers braced for unemployment. But some ingenious businessmen made the snap decision to stay in the bag business, producing cotton and paper bags for the same customers using the same employees, in trend with the environment.
Even in Mysuru, a number of responsible citizens and organisations took up this herculean task. As a forefront warrior against plastic in city, Mysuru District Level Rotary Women Empowerment Chairman Rtn. Srinidhi Murthy has been organising awareness programmes to ‘Leave Plastic Bags, Use Cloth and Paper Bags.’ She is not only promoting the use of cloth and paper bags but also conducting training sessions for poor women to make paper and cloth bags.
A group of good samaritans and institutions are also working with Srinidhi Murthy including Chairman of Vanivilasa Rotary Club H. L. Yamuna. Members of numerous Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are being trained to make paper and cloth bags.
By selling these paper and cloth bags to hotels and shops, some of the members of women SHGs are earning Rs. 1,200 per day by making 400 bags. There is a lot of demand for these bags in hotel industry and other businesses.
Srinidhi Murthy says, “One can buy cloth from wholesale dealers and start earning with a little effort and the making process is also easy to learn. Rotary is conducting training for SHGs in Brindavan Extension, above the public library building. Trainers Nirmala and Tiwari, who were trained here earlier, are conducting these programmes. We train them in making box-type hand-made paper bags and saree bags. About 20 women got trained at Shivarampet Anjaneya Temple too,” she said.
“One can get trained, start making bags and sell it back to us. Paper, which is the raw material for making these bags, costs Rs. 15 to Rs. 30 per kg. One can make 70 paper bags using 1 kg raw material. If 10 women start learning and then teach it to another 10 each, it would certainly eradicate plastic menace in no time. In the wake of ban on plastic carry bags, there is a huge demand for paper and cloth bags, particularly in malls and shops. Most of the ready-made cloth and saree merchants are using paper bags now,” she says. Srinidhi Murthy’s husband, R. Ramamurthy, who is the Past President of Rotary Brindavan, is also helping her in this endeavour.
H.L. Yamuna says, “We started providing training in July last year. Till date, more than 200 women from Jayanagar, Naidu Nagar, Kesare and other areas have been trained. Each batch has 20 to 40 women and most of them have sewing machines at their home. They learn not only to make paper and cloth bags, but also gift bags, tamboola covers, cake bags, saree bags, etc. Most of them are now earning reasonably well.”
“A specially-abled retired bank manager, who decided to work and earn from home got training here. Now, together with his family members, he makes close to 50 kg paper bags per day and sells them to retail stores in Bogadi and surrounding areas. Similarly, women from our group buy newspapers by paying Rs. 10 to 12 per kg. After making paper bags, they are at Rs. 30 to 40 per kg. Even working two hours per day would fetch an attractive additional income,” she added.
“I was doing tailoring work. When I heard that there is huge demand for paper bags, I got trained from Rotary Club. and now earning at least Rs. 200 to 300,” says Saraswathi from Kesare.
“I have done SSLC and I make papads and pickles. When I was thinking about getting some additional income, the idea of making paper bags came up. Now, I make 2.5 kg paper bags per day and sell it to condiments stores,” says Pavitra from J.P. Nagar.
“Each of our 10-member self-help group are trained to make paper bags. Each one of us are buying 3 to 3.5 kgs of newspaper by paying Rs. 10 per kg. We make box-type paper bags, cloth bags and paper pens and earning at least Rs. 3,000 to 4,000 per month,” say Chandrika and Naseema Banu from Kesare.