In Ms. Milwe's quest to find reusable bags, she discovered coops around the world made by resourceful men and women from found materials. The show highlights the bags as well as the materials they are made from.
Where: Faridabad, India
Who: Remesh Kumar and his wife, two former street children from New Delhi, organized this cooperative outside of the India metropolis as a means to foster a sustainable life for homeless youth. The Lakshya program provides shelter, education, and instruction in tailoring for children between the age of six and eight. Out of Lakshya grew the idea for reusable bag, designed by Rice Inc., a homeware company in Denmark, which supports the expansion and development of Lakshyas resources and impact in the area. As Lakshya in the Hindi word for aim, the children of the cooperative learn to point their own lives in a productive direction.
The BAG: Since 2006 the boys at Lakshya have sewn newspaper strips and fabrics into materials that are then laminated to create the eye catching bags. With new skills in hand, the children leave Lakshya at 19 with schooling and professional experience that provides foundation for future success.
Where: Conserve India, a non-profit founded in 1998 by Anita Ahuja, employs over 300 disadvantaged women from New Delhi to create innovative eco-bags. In a city littered with plastic waste. Conserve targets an enormous environmental crisis and supports women who live surrounded by pollution without shelter or food. Conserve obtains between 20 and 25 kilograms of plastic waste each day from their employed collectors that becomes the primary material for the production of bags.
The BAG: In a meticulous multi-part process, the Women sanitize and clean the plastic collected from trash heaps throughout the city. Once dry the plastic is layered and fused into a unique fabric with a natural array of colors, as a single Conserve bag is comprised of 70 to 75 polyethylene bags. Their energy-conscious conservation process transforms the once flimsy plastic into an attractive and durable material.
Who: In the capital of Indonesia, thousands of trash pickers scavenge in garbage dumps that encircle the city for materials that can be sold. The money obtained through this occupation often amounts to less than $35 monthly for an entire family. Founded in 2002, XS Project is the vision of Ann Wizen, an American visual artist and environmentalist who, accustomed to using found objects in her work, saw an opportunity in the trash-laden streets of Jakarta. XS Project pays the trash pickers to gather non-recyclable materials before it reaches landfills and waterways, and gradually trains unskilled laborers in its manufacturing processes to become adept craftsmen in the production of reusable bags designed by the cooperatives founder. Engaging a community's existing poor, XS Project employs a multi-tiered solution to make change not only in the management of waste, but also in the fabric of the society that produced it. Funds generated by the sale of XS Projects products contribute towards improving facilities and education resources for poverty-stricken families in Jakarta.
The BAG: In particular abundance in Jakarta's garbage fields in the flexible aluminium and plastic non recyclable material uses in drink pouches, due to its inexpensiveness relative to recyclable plastic bottles. Trained by XS Project, craftsmen wash, and sew the material into innovatively designed durable products.
Where: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Who: Motif Ltd. is and ethical trading company that employs marginalized men and women of Bangladeshi society and provides them a place where they can earn a living. Some of the women are former prostitutes; others have been affected by leprosy ot other diseases; other have been divorced or abandoned by their husbands. Employment at Motif provides a ‘safe place’ where they can share with other women and be earning at the same time. The company prides itself on producing unique lifestyle fabric and accessories, and considers the quality of its designs, fair prices, timely deliveries, and continued relationships with satisfied customers as its strongest selling points. All its goods are fair trade – something Motif thinks should be the norm rather than the exception.
The BAG: In 2009 Motif began experimenting with recycled materials from trash, a resource that is plentiful in Dhaka. Construction waste, including empty cement bags, offers a convenient and abundant medium for Motifs purposes. This line of recycled handbags and accessories made from cement bags provides employment to the women of Motif and helps to clean up the city of Dhaka.
Where: Manila, Philippines
Who: The Alay Kapwa Co-op was funded in Manila in 1984 to respond to the tremendous poverty and lack of employment opportunities in slums around the Philippines. Its goal is to improve the lives of families through income-generating projects based in areas of need, such as the Leveriza slum, one of Manilas and the world's largest and poorest neighborhoods. Through such enterprises as preserving jam, producing bags made from recycled materials, and candle-making, the Alay Kapwa Co-op now serves thousands of families in the Philippines, bringing hope to countless communities.
HandCrafting Justice, Inc., an American fair-trade organization sponsored by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd generously assists in the marketing of the co-op in Manila. With a national office in Astoria, NY, HandCrafting Justice also aids women in twenty cooperatives in forty-five programs on three continents: Central America, Asia, and Africa. The income-generating projects in each country give meaningful and sustainable wages to women who are vulnerable to exploitation by human traffickers and reduce their access to undignified work.
The BAG: Alay Kapwa has recently begun featuring recycled and reused products. They produce a range of bags and basketware made from recycled telephone books and potato chip bags. They also produce colorful juice bags - plastic juice pockets sewn together to make strong, attractive bags.
Where: Nakuru, Kenya
Who: Tribal clashes in 1992 forced the Kikuyu people to flee from their homes throughout Kenya. One group of displaced Kikuyu tribespeople settled on a landfill near Nakuru. Because of the lack of employment, money, and continued civil unrest, approximately 200 people now live in the gioto (landfill) that they have nicknamed London. Much of the population consist of refugee women and children, as many of the Kikuyu men have fallen victim to drug abuse, AIDS, or ethnic violence.
The BAG: A woman living in the London lanfil named Sheilla developed a method to make baskets from the polyethylene bag that the Kikuyu scavenged from the garbage of the landfill. She taught other women her techniques so that they could make their own bags, sell them to locals and tourists, earning money to feed their families. The multi-colored plastic store bags are picked from the garbage, washed, shredded, and then woven into purses, hats, baskets, and mats.
Who: Women make up a large portion of Cambodia's most marginalized and vulnerable population. Following years of suffering under the violent regime of Pol Pot, Cambodia endures the difficulties stemming from decreasing natural resources and droughts while struggling against social plagues such as drug and human trafficking. Additional, buried landmines left over from wars past continue to kill and maim unsuspecting Cambodians unlucky enough to walk over them. Women often must support their families on their own in this economically and socially ravaged country. Gecko Traders works with several small nongovernmental organizations to offer Cambodian women the opportunity to earn a living wage. Increased local revenue allows communities to address issues of women’s rights, literacy, education, and public health.
The BAG: Made from 100% recycled rice and feed bags, the raw material is salvaged from various local markets, cleaned, gently dyed, and re-fashioned into a complete line of fun, funky and fashionable fair-trade products.