BENGALURU: A group of RR Nagar residents have launched a unique scheme to curb the use of plastic bags in their locality, while also helping small-time street vendors tackle the demand for bags by customers. Members of I Care Resident Welfare Association came up with the idea of upcycling old clothes into bags, and about 15 vendors are renting out cloth bags to their customers now.
“We donate old dupattas, saris, blankets, bedsheets, shirts, kurtas, curtains and just about any cloth material to Tara, an old age home that conducts tailoring classes for women of lower economic backgrounds, like domestic maids. We purchase the bags from them for Rs 5 and sell it to vendors for a nominal cost. They, in turn, rent it to their customers for a price they wish, usually Rs 10-15,” said Aruna Das, one of the residents instrumental in starting the initiative.
“Unlike big vendors who can afford to pay for new cloth bags, small vendors selling fruits, vegetables or flowers, don’t have the same luxury. They say customers often claim that they have forgotten to bring their own bag from home, and force them to give them a plastic bag instead. While BBMP can fine the big supermarkets, they can’t fine these poor vendors, and leave them with a warning after confiscating their plastic,” Das said, adding, “There needs to be an affordable alternative presented to them.”
The response has been good so far, with 500 cloth bags in circulation now, and the group wants to give it further boost. “It is an endeavour to put an end to use of plastic, including polypropylene bags. The vendors also profit from it, as they buy the bags for Rs 4 each. If the bag is rented for Rs 10, the customer is refunded Rs 9 when they bring it back on the next visit. We conduct bulk cloth collection drives as and when the vendors run out of cloth bags,” another resident, Dr. Shyla HN, said.
One of the challenges that the residents and vendors are facing is that customers often don’t return the rented bag. As the bag is rented for Rs 10, they find that people don’t mind spending the amount to get a cloth bag. The group is now considering increasing the price charged by vendors, to ensure the bag is returned. The ultimate aim for them is to get people to bring their own bags, until which time such a rental scheme helps all parties -- women who earn a livelihood through stitching, vendors, residents and customers. They plan to conduct a few awareness drives in the neighbourhood through school children, to publicise the need to adopt cloth bags.