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April 18, 2011

Trashy Bags

It is March, the Harmattan is over and Ghana is hot!!! I know we complained about the Harmattan and the dust and allergies and so on, but the dust brought with it cooler temperatures, especially in the evenings.

The hot weather brings instead a high demand for drinking water. Enter the “sachet water”. These are small plastic bags, about 5 inches square, filled with drinking water and sold primarily by vendors on the street. The bags are light, inexpensive and basically hygenic. The water costs about 20 US cents and adults and children alike purchase these bags in voluminous quantities, often drinking half, pouring half out to cool their faces or wash their hands and then tossing the bag on to the street. Similar packaging is used tor ice cream and yogurt.

Each time I see these bags being tossed out of a tro-tro, a vision of Accra in 20 years flashes before my eyes and it is not pretty. Ghana has a population of 24 million people, about 4 million of which live in Accra. Imagine that half of the population of Accra consumes one of these bags a day (a definite understatement), it means that Accra is generating two million plastic bags a day, 14 million a week, 730 million a year. In my mind’s eye, I see a country with streets lined with piles and piles of plastic bags.


Rubish dumps in residential areas in Accra covered with plastic bags (Photo from www.trashybags.org)

I recently had the pleasure of visiting a factory which has found an innovative way to make at least a small dent in this problem. Trashy Bags encourages people around Ghana to collect discarded sachets by paying a collection fee for every batch of 1,000 bags brought in.


Bags being collected for delivery to recycling centers such as Trashy Bags (Photo from www.trashybags.org)

They then sort, clean, dry and sew these bags to produce the most incredible products, bags, wallets, shopping bags, water bottle holders and so on.

Trashy Bags Sewing Yogurt Packages


Trashy Bags Coin Purses


Trashy Bags Purses

The project has helped to clean up the streets, create awareness about the growing problem of plastic disposal and also to provide employment. We asked one employee what she had been doing before she came to work at this company and the response was that she had been selling on the streets … I wonder if she was selling sachet water!

Some Trashy Bag products:


Trashy Bags Bag


Shopping bag that folds into a small convenient purse


Trashy Bags Pencil Case

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