Globally, plastic pollution is a major areas of focus for environmental initiatives this year. The west Indian state of Maharashtra has recently made news with its a ban on single-use plastic, enforceable from June 23 of 2018.
Concerns have been raised regarding the effectiveness of this state-imposed ban in curbing the use of plastic across sectors and markets. Industry leaders, with the significant resources at their disposal and their outreach, are expected to play a key role in providing alternatives to non-biodegradable plastic.
At about 120 kms southeast of Mumbai is Roha, a town and a taluka (administrative subdistrict) in Raigad district of Maharashtra. It is here that Sudarshan Chemical
Industries, the world’s fourth largest pigment producer has one of its production facilities, set up in 1973, the other being at Mahad.
Sudarshan drives its corporate social responsibility initiatives under the name of SUDHA (SUDarshans’ Holistic Aspiration). In 2011, SUDHA started the Paper Bag project.
“We started this project with 12 skilled volunteers and they trained 20 ladies in one village near the Roha plant,” the company said.
From this humble beginning, the paper bag project has come a long way. More than 200 village women are securing their livelihood by making bags from newspapers, earning approximately Rs. 1,500–Rs. 3,500 per month.
Apart from the training, SUDHA’s role as an enabler is in providing newspapers free of cost and in helping the
women find markets to sell the bags.
For the year 2018-2019, SUDHA is looking at providing livelihood to 300 women. SUDHA is also training women in basic and advanced stitching skills.
As the women begin to step out of their homes, earn a livelihood, develop new skills, become aware about their health and conscious about their rights, they are demonstrating greater sense of independence and confidence.
Many women have also noted that their families now tend to involve them decision making.
At present, the women sell 1,00,000 bags per month. As SUDHA receives more orders for the paper bags, the challenge is in finding a regular supply of newspapers.
The organization has generally appealed for the donation of newspapers to make up for the shortage.
SUDHA is working on several projects in the four areas of women empowerment, health improvement, educational improvement and environment sustainability.
Through all these initiatives, SUDHA has positively impacted the lives of thousands of people around the company’s facilities.
SUDHA’s simple plea has the potential to reduce environmental degradation while providing a key to the empowerment of women— “As every bit of plastic ever made still exists somewhere, let us join hands and abandon the use of plastic to save the environment for future generations. Use Paper Bags instead, made from Recycled/ Reusable papers by underprivileged women of Roha Village and support the cause of women empowerment too.”