Recycling bags suits family to a T

A novel initiative that seeks to transform unwanted T-shirts into carrier bags is helping to inspire a generation of young people to be more aware of the environment.

Renuka Krishnan teaches Grade 6 and 7 pupils how to recycle T-shirts into bags. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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DUBAI // A mother’s idea to turn unwanted T-shirts into bags is helping to inspire a generation of young people to be more aware of the environment.

Each year UAE residents use millions of plastic bags but many have little thought to the environmental damage that is causing to the country.

For Renuka Krishnan, eco-school parent coordinator at Gems World Academy, it was a problem that could be solved with a little creative thinking.

“I’ve been using reusable cloth bags for the past nine years or so,” Mrs Krishnan said. “This is an issue that people just don’t think about when they are shopping but it has a big impact on the environment.”

Mrs Krishnan, who has two sons who attend the school, came up with the idea of turning T-shirts into bags three years ago.

“Although there are shops that offer reusable bags very few customers opt to get them and I think the cost plays a factor in that,” she said. “Trying to convince people to bring their shopping own bags is a big challenge.”

Over the years as her two sons have become older a lot of clothes ended up being discarded, she said.

“The good ones always found a new home but the stained, old T-shirts were the hardest to discard,” she said. “Some of them got recycled into cleaning cloths while others were sewed, by me, into T-shirt bags.

“I tried using them to replace the plastic bags that stored fresh produce in the refrigerator. They worked really well for me and since the last three years, I have been using T-shirt bags.”

Mrs Krishnan, who is the school’s eco-school parent coordinator, shared her idea with staff and so far it has been well received.

In the past two weeks she has received about 300 T-shirts which have been turned into bags.

“It takes about 15 minutes to sew T-shirts into bags and we teach pupils at the school how to do it. The aim is that it rubs off on their parents and then into the wider community.”

Tanisha Mehrotra, 10, an American Grade six pupil at the school has been closely involved in the initiative.

“I can convert about five T-shirts into bags per hour,” she said. “First we cut off the sleeves and then widen the neck collar. We stitch the bottom up and tidy up the neck area so that it’s neater and easier to use.”

The scheme has had a positive impact on students as well as parents, she said.

“It’s really important that we try to reduce our dependency on plastic bags because not only do they get sent to landfills but they also litter the environment and pose a risk to animals.”

Her mother Nandita uses the bags for shopping trips.

“I have a small one in my handbag and it comes in handy for groceries,” she said. “It’s been very easy to use and has come in handy when I’ve been out and about.”

Reusing and recycling unwanted T-shirts is an ingeniously simple solution to reducing waste, she said.

“It’s as much about trying to change people’s lifestyles as it is about getting them to be more environmentally aware,” said Mrs Mehrotra.

For more details about the initiative email Renuka Krishnan at or visit the “Give a Tee Take a Bag” Facebook page.