Akwaaba from Ghana, West Africa, the home of Trashy Bags – makers of some of the coolest sustainable fashion accessories around! I had the good fortune to visit their factory and showroom in Accra, Ghana’s bustling capital city, and interview founder and director, Stuart Gold.
Trashy Bags is a non-governmental organization (NGO) registered in Ghana, that’s mission is to help clean up the environment and provide living wage work to seamstresses and tailors. In its ten years of operation, it has employed up to 50 people at a time, paying them a base salary plus transportation to and from work, and bonuses. As I walked around the Trashy Bags site, I noticed people smiling and chatting as they worked outdoors under big shade trees, or inside in the clean and pleasant surroundings.
And creative they are, about all sorts of plastic waste, not just water sachets. Take billboards for instance. Did you ever stop to think about what happens to those huge plastic signs after they’re removed? Trashy Bags is transforming billboards into unique and colorful handbags, laptop cases, and more:
Like many in the sustainable fashion world, Trashy Bags is challenged by making beautiful products that don’t fit the mold of the cheap fast-fashion retailers and is continually seeking that niche market that will allow them to continue their operations and keep their staff employed. This message of encouragement on the wall of their beautiful home-turned-factory says it all:
Sustainable fashion has to be produced by sustainable businesses, and Trashy Bags has seen its share of challenges in staying afloat over the years. One of the current issues here in Ghana is the energy crisis. Power cuts happen regularly in Accra, necessitating the use of a generator to power the factory. “It’s very expensive to run a generator all day. At times, we’ve had to work through the night if the power comes on in the evening,” shared Mr. Gold.
Trashy Bags has a new and exciting project though, that will keep the factory busy for quite a while. One of Ghana’s fertilizer companies, Yara Ghana, is working with Trashy Bags to transform empty plastic fertilizer bags into backpacks, which will be donated by Yara to schoolchildren in farming communities throughout the country. Trashy Bags has been contracted to produce 10,000 school bags, which Yara will fill with a notebook and pencils before handing them out to needy primary schoolers.
“I’m always looking for contracts,” stated Mr. Gold. “It’s what keeps us operating.” In Ghana, every company has to comply with “corporate social responsibility” regulations, and hopefully other corporations will follow Yara’s lead in transforming their waste into useful products that keep the environment clean and lead to productive employment for Ghana’s citizens.
The mannequins at the entrance to the Trashy Bags factory really turned my head! Those outfits are beautiful – though they’d be pretty unbearably hot in this tropical environment! The creation of Trashy Bags products is a real inspiration in itself, as the staff are encouraged to put their creativity to work to develop new items that just might make it big in the sustainable fashion world. Take a look at their video, “Fantastic in Plastic” – what fun they’re having!
Indeed, a worthy cause is worth pursuing to the end. Trashy Bags is one of those worthy causes – keeping mountains of plastic waste off the streets of Accra, providing people with meaningful work, and showing the world that creativity can lead to beautiful solutions to vexing issues.
Please visit the Trashy Bags website to learn more about their products and order yours!
About the Author
Sara Corry, aka Abena Sara lives in the Eastern Region of Ghana, West Africa, close to the capital city, Accra. Tropical Africa is feeling like home now after nearly 30 years as a desert dweller! When not involved in business development, she can be found with camera in hand trying to photograph the beautiful native bird life. She writes a blog about daily life in Ghana, and is a contributor to a website devoted to wildlife conservation in Africa. She has a passion for travel and would jump on a plane to almost anywhere at a moment’s notice!