Empty milk packets are one of the major items that add to the plastic waste of every household. But for Leelama Mathew, a 67-year-old woman from Kerala, the packets are the raw materials to make several useful crafts and household items.
Crafting milk packets
Three years ago, Leelamma Mathew, a resident of Adoor, Kerala, was dumping or burning used milk packets like any other household. But one day, she was approached by a young girl who lived in the neighborhood, who told her how bad burning plastic is for the environment.
As we know, burning doesn’t rid the plastic, it just changes it into toxic gases that go on to affect health, and the environment. For the 67-year-old, the intervention proved to be worthwhile, and as she began reading more about the nation’s plastic burden in the newspapers, she decided she would find another way to put empty milk packets to use.
Now, Leelamma, who is an expert in hand embroidery and handicraft, has made a wardrobe, laundry bins, fruit baskets, handbags, and purses with used milk packets. With some videos of her work going viral on social media, many people are asking to make similar items for them.
“I have been passionate about embroidery, handicraft, and sewing from my school days and have made several crafts over the last five decades. So using the plastic milk packets I made a money purse first. I washed the packets and dried them so that I could cut them into plastic ribbon-like strips. I weaved it to make it tough and used it to make the purse. As it was successful, I made a grocery bag, a fruit basket, and a handbag. Some of my friends took the pictures of it and posted it on social media and I received much appreciation,” said Leelamma, reported in Times Of India.
Making a wardrobe and laundry bags
Leelamma says that she has also made a wardrobe made of milk packets. She made the wardrobe using 4,150 milk packets, and a laundry bag using 1,000. “I first made a small purse, then made a big bag, and now have made an entire wardrobe made of milk packets. I first trim the unwanted areas from the packet. Then, I wash and dry them so that the smell goes away,” says Leelamma.
However, she doesn’t sell these craftings as she says, she needs help for that, and is looking for people to teach and employ.
“I have the mind to make as many items as possible. However, that is not possible physically. I want to employ a few people, teach them how to make these items, and then sell them,” she told The Better India.
She also points out, “One shouldn’t burn plastic covers, the smoke is bad for our health. Clean them and turn them into usable items. Several varieties of products can be made out of it.”
Surprised by her work, the Kerala Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (Milma) invited Leelamma to their office, and the minister for dairy development and milk co-operatives J Chinchu Rani honored her with a hamper. Leelamma says that Rani has promised to help her in any manner possible, should she wish to set up a business.