The Trash-to-Treasure program aims to strengthen the community by teaching residents how to reuse waste plastic and transform it into items they can use or sell. Craftable items include mosquito nets/screens, school bags, handbags, ropes, cell phone covers, and much more. Upcycling plastic bags into mosquito nets/screens can help prevent malaria. The project provides the added benefit of cleaning up the environment as trash is collected and recycled. More specifically, our goals are:
- Malaria prevention: By teaching people how to make their own mosquito nets/sheets out of used plastic bags, we aim to reduce the incidence of malaria.
- Income Generation: Provide an income opportunity for people by using disposed plastic bags to make usable products that can be resold for profit.
- Waste Reduction: This project empowers participants to explore and implement safe methods for the collection and cleaning of waste plastic bags.
This simple project can achieve multiple objectives: job creation, teaching income-generating skills, providing an opportunity to make useful items out of widely available materials, cleaning up the local environment, and saving lives by preventing malaria.
Based on the positive response from the community, we can conclude that the Trash-to-Treasure workshops have been a success. Two hundred and twenty five members from all age groups participated in the training workshops. POL staff and community members had a fun time learning how to transform plastic bags into useful items like handbags, cell phone cases, plastic sheets to seal windows, and more. Items created during these workshops are used by the participant families on a daily basis. Community members learned that reusing high-quality plastic bags is a marketable skill that can generate income for the family.his
Community trainings were conducted by Dr. Brad Elder and his wife at the Matero Community Center in Lusaka, Zambia. POL staff trained by Dr. Elder assisted in these community trainings. Under the guidance and leadership provided by Dr. Elder, the following workshops were conducted over 7-8 days:
- Initial Training: Nine members of the POL staff were provided with training on the process of upcycling plastic bags. These trained staff in turn helped Dr. Elder provide training to the larger community.
- The second round of training was provided to community members on how to fuse plastic bags together to make the plastic base material. They then learned how to turn this base into mosquito nets and plastic items for sale (cellphone cases, hats, bags, ropes, raincoats, pouches, pipes, etc.).
- POL staff and community members were also trained on how to convert a nail into a mosquito net needle and how to prepare the sewing machine for mosquito net production. Post-training, community members will be able to craft mosquito nets for malaria prevention and share that knowledge with others in the community.
- Further demonstrations were provided to POL staff and community members on additional products that can be made utilizing the Doane Net Project methodology. Demonstrations were conducted on optimal usage of mosquito netting (promoting the creation and use of window and door netting as opposed to bed nets).
Dr. Elder’s assessment of this project can be found here.
Based on the success of this pilot project we would like to conduct similar workshops every six months. Doing so would ensure that upcycling plastic bags and keeping the community clean becomes a part of the culture in Matero. In addition, future workshops may be even more effective if community training was followed by a 1-2 practice sessions so that participants can exchange ideas and perfect their work. In the next 2-3 years we would like to expand the scope of this project to:
- Train POL staff and community members on how to make plastic tiles for use as pavers and chalkboards.
- Present the project's concept at self-help groups, women’s clubs, Churches, markets schools, etc., to expose as many people in the community to the methodology.
- Provide presentations and demonstrations in partnership with POL staff to POL patrons and community partners.
- Create videos that can be used as teaching tools in future workshops.