Amrita Plastic Project

Turning garbage into gorgeous

Is it possible for a dirty thrown-away plastic bag to become a useful, durable and beautiful object that people will even be eager to purchase? The answer is a clear and resounding “Yes”! And it has been demonstrated with wonderful creativity by the Amritapuri Ashram Amrita Plastic Project.

The project was started {news} by a resident of the ashram who was inspired to re-use the waste plastic that she saw around her. Sorting the waste plastics from the rubbish bins is no small task, especially as every item must be hand washed, sterilised and dried. A wide range of creative and useful products have been created from these simple materials, ranging from purses and wallets to shoulder bags and meditation mats. Each one is unique, brightly coloured and painstakingly produced to a high standard. Techniques such as knitting, sewing, weaving and crocheting are used to create very attractive items. Children especially love to take part in this seva and it’s a great way for them to learn about recycling. Many of the devotees who have taken part have been so impressed that they’ve taken the idea home and started their own plastic projects. Amma’s vision of “waste into wealth” is blossoming all around the world. And it’s one important facet of the Amritapuri “Zero-Waste” goal whereby all our waste is transformed or recycled. Thus Amritapuri is becoming an excellent role model for sustainable practices.

Meanwhile at the ashram, the popularity of the products has meant that it has been difficult to meet the demand! It is not uncommon to see ashram residents using their recycled accessories and there is a lot of support for the project here, especially from Amma herself! When presented with a handmade recycled bag, She held it up high for all to see and said: “You may think it is only a small gesture, but through this the hearts of individuals blossom and others are inspired to follow. This can lead to significant changes in society.” {news} So Amma has declared that endeavours like the Plastic Project are a great way to help people realise and implement Amma’s teachings on natural harmony.

Sorting plastic from the waste bins is not the most glamorous job, but it really makes you realise what a mess we leave behind. We find ourselves thinking twice when reaching for that plastic-wrapped packet of biscuits or chocolate bar. The reality is that, while the snack will vanish in 5 minutes (or less!), the plastic will still be around even after we’re gone from the planet. Plastic bags take at least 300 years to break down into smaller particles. This is not a good legacy to leave for future generations. If we can think of solutions now, then perhaps we can lower the impact of this plastic epidemic that is sweeping the planet.

In one of her talks, Amma said that, because plastic is so prevalent in the world nowadays, birds are even starting to use waste plastic to build their nests! Also, in some of the more polluted areas of the Pacific Ocean, marine animals easily mistake plastic for food, which often leads to death because it cannot be digested. And the huge “garbage patch” in the Pacific ocean is a sad legacy of our lack of wisdom and foresight in dealing with our waste. Amma teaches that each of us, by being more thoughtful about what we purchase and throw away, can make a big difference.

Under Amma’s guidance, the Plastic Project has branched out to teaching the knitting, weaving and crocheting skills to local women.

By recycling plastic into desirable goods, we not only prevent some plastic from polluting the natural environment and raise money for good causes, but most importantly we raise awareness about the plastic problem. This project has really opened eyes of many to what is possible with a little bit of imagination!