Sofia is a hairdresser by trade, but is putting her practical skills, business acumen and compassion into a new enterprise. She has a new take on the locally-produced straw baskets – baskets woven out of used plastic. Discarded plastic is everywhere, particularly the 500ml drinking water sachets and the small black polythene bags used by shopkeepers. With limited local authority waste collection and no bins in public places, most rubbish is thrown onto the ground.
Most people are either so used to seeing plastic everywhere they no longer notice it, or they are annoyed by the eyesore it creates. Sofia sees it as an opportunity – free material, a chance to create employment for those less fortunate than herself and a business prospect.
Sofia’s hairdressing customers now bring their used plastic drinking sachets and other plastic with them when they arrive for their appointment. News of her initiative has spread and people stop by with their used plastic, especially since after donating three full sacks of plastic Sofia will provide you with a free bin to collect more. She also collects it from the drinking water depots who are happy to give her the faulty sachets. Her brother works at a school and Sofia has provided bins to collect plastic bags and has organised a Fun Club which goes out and collects plastic.
Sofia employs porters who earn a pittance for manual labour, disabled women with no other employment options and remote rural communities living close to the poverty line. She pays her staff for collecting the plastic and also provides training on the various stages of constructing the plastic-woven baskets.
First the plastic is cut into strips. Then each strip is put around a string attached to the wall and twisted together, just as hair is twisted to make braids.
These strands are then used just as straw would be to weave the baskets. Here, this woman is weaving the base of a basket. She is deaf-mute and previously found it difficult to find employment.
Sofia is full of ideas. She wants to expand her work in schools, to put more bins in, to educate the children on recycling. At football matches she wants to put bins by seats to collect plastic and then use this plastic to make the bags for holding footballs, beginning with local grounds before going national. She is seeking funding from the local government authority to be able to employ more disadvantaged people, because she is in fact providing a public service collecting the discarded plastic from public areas. And she has lots of ideas for diversifying her range of products.
Sofia has received some interest from an NGO who might be able to provide funding to allow her to really get the business off the ground. I really hope it comes to fruition. If you, or anyone you know would be interested in investing in the enterprise of this charming, capable and compassionate woman, get in touch!