WHILE the mere mention of the term dumpsite might bring about negative thoughts to most people, for industrious Zimbabwean women, recycling disposed plastics has become a sustainable source of income.
Providence Zhou, a woman who stays in the low-income high-density suburb of Budiriro, southwest of the capital Harare, has mastered the art of weaving trendy bags from recycled plastics and other materials that she collects from dumpsites.
“Other people may see plastics as rubbish, as disgusting, as trash, but to me when I see it I just see pure art,” Zhou told Xinhua.
At first making items out of disposed materials was just a hobby but it became a profitable business that has enabled her to fend for her family.
Zhou works with her mother, mostly in her veranda at home, cutting the plastic into small treads that she then crotches into fashionable colorful handbags for ladies.
“So I just thought of just picking these plastics, different colors, then blending them coming out with different unique products so I can make a living,” she said.
By recycling junk, Zhou is promoting a recycling culture that can help address Zimbabwe’s waste management challenges.
Her success has since incited several other women in her community to start making products out of recycled materials.
“So I started collecting them, inspiring many people and telling them, you do not have to throw away these plastics, they can be reused to make unique products such as what I am doing,” she said.
Her art has attracted public attention and admiration.
This year, she successfully showcased her products at the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show, the country’s premier exhibition event.
Zhou said the project has made a huge and positive impact on her life and that of many other women in her community by providing them with a sustainable income stream.
“I am not jealous about people getting into my trendy, getting into my job, getting into my idea, I want people to be able to do this,” she said.
Besides making handbags, Zhou also makes mats, carpets and hats, all from recycled plastic.
Waste disposal remains a major challenge in Zimbabwe’s high-density suburbs due to lack of adequate waste collection and disposal equipment by local authorities.
The recycling of waste at the household level is seen as a sustainable way of providing more economic and environmental benefits to local communities.