Communities in Sri Lanka Transitioning Away from Single-Use Plastic Bags
Irangatulasi, a 29-year old tailor of women’s clothing residing in Jaffna District, has a new source of income. Thanks to her participation in a training on tailoring reusable cloth bags, hosted by USAID’s Municipal Waste Recycling Program (MWRP) grantee Sri Lanka Centre for Development Facilitation (SLCDF), she is now sewing and selling these bags. As a result, she has seen a 50% increase in her monthly earnings, adding 10,000 rupees ($55 USD) to her 20,000 rupees ( $110 USD) per month income.
SLCDF is leading a project under USAID’s MWRP in Jaffna District in the north of Sri Lanka. Through program activities, communities recognized that a crucial step towards a cleaner neighborhood environment was finding inexpensive replacements for the plastic and polythene bags often used in local shops. SLCDF identified a group of 129 women seeking opportunities to improve their livelihoods, one of whom was Irangatulasi, and trained them in tailoring to make shopping bags from cloth or upcycled banner materials. The beneficiaries selected for these training programs were women belonging to marginalized communities, often widows, the heads of households, and /or impoverished. As a member of a woman-headed household of two, Irangatulasi relied on tailoring as her main source of income.
SLCDF and four local authorities in Jaffna are distributing the cloth bags made by the trained women to residents and shop owners as part of the village-level awareness raising program on plastic waste and recycling. Irangatulasi’s work has been recognized by her community and, as a result, she is also stitching reusable bags for temples, clothing stores, and wedding planners.