Thursday, July 22, 2010

'Trashy Bags' turns Ghanian Waste into fashion

"People in West Africa don't take the environment particularly seriously," said Stuart Gold, founder of the NGO Trashy Bags, "but more and more in Ghana they do." Ghana, like much of Africa, has problems with providing access to safe drinking water. Consequently, many people rely on street side vendors who sell water filled sachets, single use disposable bags. After the sachets have been used, people typically cast the used containers on the streets. Often times seasonal flooding can result from the sachets and other waste blocking storm drains.

Trashy Bags not only helps keep the streets cleaner, but it also provides jobs and goods for people to purchase. The business model is simple: people roam the streets and landfills for sachets and are paid $.20 for each kilogram (about 100 sachets) of the used material they bring in. Nearly 100 people are reliant on sachets as their soul source of income.

The sachets are then washed, dried, and cut into the shapes for making the bags. Thing like wallets and shopping bags are then stitched together by more the 60 Ghanians working in the factory from the prepared pieces and subsequently sold to both locals and tourists. Prices range from as low as $1 for a wallet to $26 for a sports bag.

Even though Trashy Bags has removed an estimated 15 million sachets from the streets of Accra, the capital of Ghana, it is just a drop in the bucket given the amount of waste in the streets. However, innovative solutions like Trashy Bags are providing economic and environmental solutions to these key issues.

-Matthew Thwaites
SOURCES: "Ghana bags a handy new way to tackle plastic waste"-CNN News