Entrepreneurial Africa: Repurpose Schoolbags

Repurpose Schoolbags

Rethaka Repurpose Schoolbags is a South African business that takes our severe plastic bag pollution and several challenges that children from low-income families face, and provides a unique solution combating environmental and social problems.

April 2015 - South African eco-social entrepreneur, Thato Kgatlhanye (23), co-founded Rethaka Repurpose Schoolbags five years ago after winning a start-up business competition. She used the funding to set-up a factory that designs and manufacturers one-of-a-kind school satchels using only waste products such as plastic shopping bags.

The school bags are created with added reflective material to increase visibility of the children walking to and from school - very important in a country where three school children are killed daily on the roads (source: SANRAL). The satchels are also strong, durable and waterproof as the plastic bags are fused together at high temperatures.

These satchels also have a built-in solar panel that charges during the day when the child walks to and from school. The solar panels can then be used at night to power solar-jar lamps in homes that don't have electricity.

Says Kgatlhanye, who grew up in a low-income community, "Rethaka was started out of a need to tell a different story of what is possible for young people starting businesses in Mogwase (a township in the North-West province). When you start looking at township economics, you ask: 'Can we employ people who don't really have a lot of skills? Can we take waste, and turn waste into work?' Some of those questions we have been confident in answering with a very bold, 'Yes!'"

Rethaka Repurpose Schoolbags now employs 20 people and is planning to expand production to include children's rain jackets made out of 100% recycled material.

Soko sustainable fashion

How it works:

1. Rethaka identifies low income, disadvantaged schools in South Africa where children lack basic school supplies and walk long distances to school.

2. They invite corporates and individuals to become "Giving Partners".

3. Rethaka matches a Giving Partner with one of the disadvantaged schools, and communicates this match to both. The Giving Partner then funds the order for Repurpose Schoolbags for the school.

4. Rethaka organises a themed handover event at the school where Giving Partners are invited to deliver the new bags to the school children as part of their broader community programmes or CSI initiatives.

5. Rethaka assesses the impact of the Repurpose Schoolbags through feedback from the disadvantaged school.

Giving Partners are then sent a "Give Thanks Pack" with information about how much plastic was recycled for their order, photos and videos from the handover event and letters from the disadvantaged school and its children.

Meet Thato Kgatlhanye:

Meet Thato Kgatlhanye

To find out more, visit Rethaka Repurpose Schoolbags' website here, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter or Instagram.

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