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Is this better or that better?

Is this better or that better?

I read a recent article on introducing a vending machine to dispense cloth bags to combat the single use plastic bag menace.

When we meet such ideas that on the face of it seem like a bold or technologically enabled promise to solve an issue, it’s easy to accept the idea as reasonably relevant. It’s much harder to ask – is this good enough? 

I am not proposing that we needlessly critique ideas – not at all, but we must be mindful of the unintentional consequences that are often missed out when dealing with solutions that are meant to help.

If the premise is that - when a customer is shopping and has forgotten a bag she goes to this vending machine and gets one – why not put the bags in the hand of the vendors she is shopping at? How do we include people in our solutions because there is evidence to show that getting people rallied around an idea has positive ripple effects. The informal vendors need the most viable alternative, and a machine will distance them from the solution – it will not unite them as a community of solution providers.

And while any solution needs to be viable in the long term, it needs to also make sure it avoids use of virgin fabric and works to repurpose textile waste. This can be challenging to put into a vending machine. We also need to think of the structure that we are placing a possible solution in, will it be just, will it be replicable and will be bring people together around a purpose.

So, if we need to truly connect the dots – remove single use plastic bag, incentivise informal vendors to sell alternatives, repurpose textile waste to produce alternatives, incentivise customers to reuse bags and reach vendors at scale, we need many organisations and skill sets to come together to solve this., 

That is what we did – a group of us came together and launched the Desh Ka Bag on Gandhi Jayanti in the middle of Tippasandra Market in Bangalore! It was a milestone in a year long journey of discussions, testing, meetings, and ideation. 

Is this solution better? I cannot say yet.

We are working to build this further, and we need inputs from anyone who cares – please do write to us at deshkabag@gmail.com

I will explain the initiative fully in my next post. 

Poonam Bir Kasturi
October 2022


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