Rita Maker is living her dream of contributing to the environment by upcycling every plastic bag that enters her house.
While many think of contributing to the environment, only a few actually take initiative. But 66-year-old Mumbai resident Rita Maker is preparing for a safer and better environment for the next generation.
With the motto of ‘Jo plastic ghar aae kuchh bankar bahar jaae (any plastic enters the house should turn into something and go out)’, Rita breathes life into the plastic bags by upcycling them and turning them into products, thereby preventing them from reaching the roads, drains or the oceans and wreaking havoc. “We have created the problem and the onus lies on us to solve it,” says Rita, who has been a teacher of Social Science and Geography all her life and always wanted to do something for the environment. “My subject has changed; I am now teaching environmental science to the world instead,” laughs the teacher, adding, “I always wanted to contribute to the environment but my condition was to do it from home.”
Though her eagerness to do something for nature lied long in her heart, she took an action after coming across a video of a woman making mats from Walmart shopping bags on the Internet.
“That immediately inspired me. I was good at crochet, knitting and other handmade work. So, I didn’t give a second thought and just started,” recalls the self-claimed environmentalist who believes in living a minimalist lifestyle. She further adds that her daughter would always tell her to go out and pursue her vision but Rita was adamant of working from home. “And it happened, my children like my work,” she smiles.
Making plan (plastic+yarn) and then crocheting it to create mats, bags and different lifestyle products is not a simple task as it appears to be in online videos. It took more than three months for Rita to get a hang on looping, adjusting and segregating plastic till she reached the final step of any product. “Any handicraft requires hard work but plastic is very difficult material. It is a long process. The adjustments and segregation of plastic is the most difficult thing,” says Rita. Oblivious to the number of products she has made and the time one piece takes to breathe life, Rita confesses that it is difficult to keep a track for anything in this process and her assistant helps her do the initial steps of cutting and mapping the plastics.
After exhausting all the plastic bags in her house and those given by her friends and relatives, she thought of using waste milk packets from her kitchen. She initially made mats from 5.5 to 2.5 feet long in size to distribute to all the patients sleeping outside Tata Memorial Hospital and KEM Hospital.
However, she later realised that those mats were not apt for the temperature in India and weren’t suitable for roads. She then started giving these mats to the service staff in different complexes and security houses. “I am not creating these to make money but to help someone and it is satisfying. Though I am thinking about marketing part this year,” explains the craft maker.
So far, Rita has turned the household plastics into doormats, sleeping mats, clutches, bags, baskets, sheets and sarongs. And, she continues to upcycle every bag that reaches her house - from shopping bags to food bags, from bread wraps to milk packets.