In Canada, many of us wouldn’t give a second thought to chucking an old pair of socks in the garbage or ditching an out-of-style pair of jeans. On average, we dispose of approximately 30 pounds of textile waste each year.
It gets worse. Research shows us that only 25 percent of that material is recycled, although up to 95 per cent of it could be repurposed or reused.
We can learn a thing or two from some ingenious and talented makers in India and Bangladesh. Rather than throwing away old saris – the graceful, traditional swaths of cloth women wear there – they’re upcycling the fabric and turning old trash into pretty, practical items. Think slouch bags, purses, potholders, throws, dhurrie rugs and even boxes.
Upcycling is recycling done better. Artisans take something that’s no longer used and give it a second life by transforming it into a finished product that becomes even more valuable, beautiful or practical than it was before.
Saris are perfect for upcycling because of the sheer amount of cloth used to create each one – they can be more than eight metres in length.
That’s a lot of purses and potholders.
Here are a few things to know about our upcycled sari products:
While some saris are collected from owners, others, perhaps having been dyed imperfectly at the factory, have never actually been worn.
Don’t worry; they’re all washed.
All fabric is well washed and stitched together with care so each item will last and last. Remember, these are handmade items.
They’re all unique.
Because each piece is crafted from authentic sari material, colours and patterns vary widely. No two are exactly alike.
Carpets are a little different.
When saris are earmarked for carpets, they’re sorted, hand-spun and hand-woven before being re-coloured using gentle dyes. There’s more consistency.
Keeping unused textiles out of the landfill is obviously important, but that’s not the whole story. Our artisan partners, such as Saidpur Enterprises (and its Action Bag Handicrafts project), Sacred Mark and Craft Resource Centre (CRC), also offer assistance and training to some of the world’s most forgotten people: sex trafficking survivors, those from “untouchable” castes and women who were once struggling to feed their children.
Recycled saris, and the organizations that create them, change lives.