Imagine you are walking on the road and you see cows and stray dogs in search of food amidst polythene bags, old audio, video cassette tapes and biscuit, cookie, detergent and chocolate wrappers. What would be your reaction? Squeeze your nose and walk away right past it. Right?
The sad reality is that polythene bags pollute not only water bodies but food and the environment, and they are even swallowed by unsuspecting innocent animals and birds, leading to their untimely death, in the most horrible ways. With the idea of reducing the harmful effects to the environment due to plastic and to spread this awareness, ‘reCharkha - The EcoSocial Tribe’ started operations as a social enterprise.
reCharkha - The EcoSocial Tribe, a Pune-based social enterprise, is working in the field of transforming plastic waste into accessories like handbags, fashion accessories and office utilities. reCharkha employs tribal women and youth to help them earn a livelihood while creating beautiful hand-woven products from plastic waste. How are the products manufactured from plastic waste? The process begins with washing the plastic bags and drying them under the Sun. Tribal artisans cut the sun-dried plastic bags, which are spun on a charkha (spindle) to make yarn and further woven on a hand loom to make fabric. This hand-woven fabric is stitched like any other fabric to create consumer accessories like tote bags, clutches, laptop bags, purses, water-bottle holders, book covers and more. It takes approximately 1.5 days for the workers to manufacture tote bags from plastic waste.
reCharkha believes that sustainable development is possible when it begins at the grassroots level, and involves communities. The process of transforming an abiotic waste into finished products consists of a series of steps in which the workforce plays an important role. Initially, it was a challenge for the founders to get tribal people to take to the benefits of associating with reCharkha. "We had to educate the tribal women and youth about our initiative and explain the advantages of connecting with reCharkha; however, the toughest challenge was to tackle labour migration", says Amita Deshpande, co-founder of reCharkha.
reCharkha is a regular participant at crafts and fairs and at exhibitions that are held world-wide, primarily, to help increase awareness among buyers to use these beautiful up-cycled waste plastic products. Their online shopping website now brings these pretty useful products, closer home. With just a few clicks, these products can be delivered, anywhere! "The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced sales of reCharkha’s products but the demand is now gradually picking up", said Amita Deshpande.
"We are planning to expand to other cities, too", adds Ms Deshpande.
Rhythima Agrawal, a resident of Jabalpur, is a graduate from the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bengaluru. She is full of ideas and loves experimenting with things.
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