Rita Maker from Mumbai has been upcycling plastic bags into mats, bags, clutches, baskets and potholders. She also runs a DIY Youtube Channel to inspire people to crochet plastic and do their bit in tackling the ever-growing problem of plastic.
With the ever-growing velocity of climate change, the world is trembling at the speculation of our planet’s fate. Global warming and climate change have reached the point of no return. The global media has changed its language on climate issues. It’s not Climate Change anymore, it’s Climate Emergency. After repeated attempts at provoking environmental consciousness by experts and activists, people are beginning to realise that they cannot just sit back and do nothing anymore. Citizens from all around the world are gradually rising up to slow down climate emergencies, and some have found a way to do so by sitting at home.
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Early efforts to curb plastic piles
Plastic is a growing menace to the Earth, but to Rita Maker— a 66-year-old Mumbai resident, it is an opportunity for creating beautiful products that provide sustenance. From clutches to coasters, she creates all her hand-made products by upcycling plastic. Her tryst with Environment started when she participated in an Environmental fest at the school she was teaching. She slowly started changing her lifestyle and encouraged people to do the same. But for her, it wasn’t enough. Every now and then, she saw environmental problems River cloggings and marine pollution etc. making headlines. The environmentalist in her started looking for alternatives to reduce the menace of plastic waste whilst sitting at home. And she found the answer in the form of a Facebook video— where women were making mats from Walmart bags for third world country refugees.
Upcycling Plastic for Public Good
Maker started making mats out of plastic shopping bags that she’d got home after shopping and soon started using all the plastic waste from her kitchen which could potentially choke animals or clog water bodies. Few days into the process, she realised that the method wasn’t easy because of the overwhelming variety of types of plastic. “It took me months to get the hang of handling the sorting of plastic bags. The mat just seemed to guzzle down the plastic bags.”, says Rita. She sent a word across requesting her colony members to give her plastic and people were quick to contribute whatever type of plastic they could towards her endeavour.
The process that Rita undertakes is simple and has four steps.
- Cutting the bags at opposite ends.
- Cutting and joining loops to make plarn. (plastic yarn)
- Crocheting or knitting to make any product.
Empowering Domestic Helps
With the help of her domestic help, she first cuts the bags at opposite ends to create cylindrical loops. Next, she cuts them into strips, which she connects by knotting together. This creates a chain of plarn (plastic + yarn), which she then crochets into her final products. Rita currently makes a variety of products including designer mats, bags, clutches, baskets and pot holders this way. ”
Interestingly, Rita’s upcycled products are not for sale. Instead, she gives away these mats for free to patients and their families sitting outside Tata and KEM hospitals. She later started giving the mats to the service staff of the complex. The other products are mostly given as gifts to people who need them. Rita has no plans to turn this into a commercial business and thinks of this as her tiny contribution to slow down climate emergencies. “This is my only contribution to solving the problem. It is my way of rectifying the errors we have made in the past. I have made almost a hundred products and have the satisfaction of not letting thousands of plastic bags going astray and becoming a menace.”, tells Rita.
Sharing the Knowledge
The 60-year-old eco-champion also gives personalised training on upcycling plastic to anyone who wants to learn and do it sitting at home. To achieve this, she conducts training sessions with the children and teaches them how to make friendship bands and table mats out of plastic. The Mumbai resident even puts her DIY videos are on Youtube. She does so because she hopes that would inspire at least one person the same way the Facebook video inspired her.
An Old School Method for the Modern Era Crisis
Rita is a prime example of how one can make an eco-friendly difference sitting at home without comprehensive resources. She firmly believes that everyone can make a small contribution to reducing the destruction of climate change if they put their mind to it. The Mumbaikar urges people to seek inspiration from YouTube, and start their own upcycling process within their capabilities. “Upcycling is not new. It is simply a revival of what grandmothers of the past generations used to do to pass their time. There is always a scope for everyone to be upcycling plastic from home. One may not be knowing crocheting and knitting. But one has to take the first step.”, asserts Rita.
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