Mumbai: Vile Parle's cotton bag library joins plastic-free drive

By  Rupsa Chakraborty | Mumbai | Posted  14-Sep-2017

A doctor and two architects have come together to encourage residents of Vile Parle to use traditional cotton bags for shopping

The cotton bags are stitched by tribal women in Palghar
The cotton bags are stitched by tribal women in Palghar

Even as the state government has ordered a ban on plastic bags from March next year, one senior doctor has gone a step forward to ensure that the city is plastic-free. Dr Anuja Joshi Pethe, a consultant paediatrician from Nanavati Hospital, along with two of her architect friends, Uma Joshi and Manasi Thite-Dighe, is encouraging shopkeepers in Vile Parle to distribute hand-made cotton bags.

The bags are stitched by tribal women in Palghar and later given to shopkeepers in the area, who then distribute it to residents for a refundable amount of Rs 10. The campaign was first launched in May. Since then, more than 800 bags have been distributed to people living in Vile Parle.

Dr Anuja Joshi Pethe
Dr Anuja Joshi Pethe

Lending movement
"We all know that plastic causes severe harm to the environment. But, often, due to unavailability of traditional cotton bags, people end up using plastic. We thought of launching a bag-distribution campaign at Vile Parle as a small step," said Pethe of the campaign, which has been called The Granny Way. "I have seen my grandmother use old clothes to stitch bags. In their generation, they hardly utilised plastic bags," she added, while explaining the inspiration for the name of the campaign.

The bag distribution follows the same principle of a lending library. "You can pick a cloth bag from a vendor after handing over a deposit of Rs 10. The bag can be used for shopping and returned as per your convince. Once returned, you will also be given your deposit back," Pethe said.

Uma Joshi
Uma Joshi

The group has currently tied up with 10 to 12 shops at Vile Parle. All these shops have a poster of the campaign, to inform customers about the availability of use and return bags.

Meanwhile, Pethe and her friends have been collecting old clothes from friends and relatives to make more bags. "In fact, with growing awareness about the campaign, many people are coming forward to donate used clothes. After collecting the material, we send it to the tribal women in Palgarh for stitching," Pethe said.

Manasi Thite-Dighe
Manasi Thite-Dighe

Awareness is growing
According to shopkeepers at Vile Parle, the campaign is slowly gaining traction in the area. "Every day around 10-15 customers use the bags from my shop," said Vilash Kanukale, owner of Thote Dairy.

Dr Medha Shete, 60, a pathologist, who owns Parle Pathological Laboratory, uses the bags on a regular basis, while going for shopping. "The bags can carry at least 3 to 4 kg worth goods. Also, since it can be used as a shoulder bag, it is a rather, convenient option for me," she said.

Pethe and her friends are now planning to initiate the campaign in other parts of the city. However, the organisers have learnt that many customers don't return the bags. "We are finding this to be a major hurdle in taking the campaign forward," Pethe said.

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