Banners To Bags, which is a part of CWIN (Child Workers in Nepal), has been addressing two major problems seen in our society. It has been reducing the use of polythene bags and creating employment opportunities for the youth while also supporting girls since 2012. Banners To Bags is a big step towards protecting and uplifting the society. Let us see what Ms. Rushka Sthapit, one of the founding members of Banners To Bags has to say about this venture.
1. Could you tell us about the social problem you are trying to solve?
The main social problem that we are trying to solve is decreasing the use of plastic bags in Kathmandu and Lalitpur area. Its usage not only affects the environment but also disturbs in waste management. The landfills of Kathmandu and Lalitpur are already filled with polythene bags which are non-biodegradable in nature and have harmful effects too.
We’re doing this by employing the concept of recycling and upcycling. The cities of Kathmandu and Lalitpur are addicted to banners and flex which are also made of plastic. Every small function requires publicity with big banners and flexes hanging all over the place that remain there for ages until they end up in landfills. We thought of upcycling them rather than letting them pile up on landfills. Hence, after several trials and experiments, we found out that they can be turned into attractive and durable bags. So, that’s how Banners To Bags came to be whose name has a literal background story.
2. Do you see the changes your products have brought in society?
Well, we definitely haven’t been able to completely replace plastic bags over other alternatives since using them have been ingrained in our culture. However, we’ve taken a baby step and have managed to make people aware of the alternatives to plastic bags. They know how to recycle and upcycle waste products that can serve as an alternative to plastic bags. If not in a larger scale, we have been able to trigger the interest of people about this burning issue.
3. Can you share with us the venture of Banners To Bags?
Banners To Bags is a part of CWIN which has a lot of volunteers working throughout the year who collaborate and come up with great ideas. During one such collaborative teamwork, we discussed all the cloth banners lying in CWIN at the time. After brainstorming for a while, we came up with the idea of converting those banners into bags.
CWIN has a department called Self Reliant that encourages the youth to think creatively and use their skills to generate income. We took help from this department to design and stitch the bags and that’s how Banners To Bags was born.
4. What is the legal status of Banners To Bags?
Right now, we work under CWIN and aren’t registered separately but we collaborate with startups. As such, we collaborated with Tyre Treasures, Doko Recyclers and many such companies that are influencing the communities to make greener choices. This way we aren’t working strictly under CWIN and are using some form of flexibility too.
5. How many employees were working for Banners To Bags when it started out?
It was just me handling the operations of Banners To Bags while starting out since I was in the founding team. Then we had 4 girls aged between 16-22 years working from the self-reliant department to make the whole project a success. Apart from that, we have occasional volunteers who helped us a lot.
6. What is the current employee strength of Banners To Bags?
Right now, there are two girls from the self-reliant department fully working on Banners To Bags but we do have occasional volunteers and youths working with us.
7. How were the funds raised to start out his venture?
Since we are under CWIN, they provided us with the budget but we do not want to be totally dependent on it. So, in order to avoid this, we’re trying to make the project profitable and sustainable.
8. Were there any challenges that you faced while starting Banners To Bags?
Yes, plenty! Getting the concept out was a challenge in itself while the other practical problem was cleaning the banners as some of them came to us in poor condition. Another big challenge was creating a market for such products.
9. How are you overcoming these challenges?
Like I said earlier, we have been collaborating with similar organizations working in waste management field. By doing so, we have been able to share ideas and learn from them as well.
10. What would you say about the market potential for your business?
I think the market potential is huge. Most of the people interested in our products are expats who are deeply interested in the concept of upcycling and recycling. They really appreciate our products. However, we don’t want just expats to be our customers. We want the Nepali market to know about and use our products.
11. Do Banners To Bags have any key needs at the moment?
We want to slowly change the setting of Banners To Bags to an enterprise setting so that we can attract more youths to stay and work with us. That way, we will be able to support more girls and expand Banners To Bags.
12. Do you consider yourself as a social entrepreneur?
Definitely yes and I plan to stay active on this matter.
13. Is there any other information that you would like to share with people?
All I want for them is to support organizations such as Banners To Bags which are trying to address two problems at the same time: plastic pollution and foreign employment of youth. Our view is: ‘I will try and stay back so that they can take care of Banners To Bags as a whole.’
For more information about this creative company, visit their Facebook page Banners To Bags