Mitz Bags – trendy bags from recycled sweet wrappers
An example of recycling in action, and helping achieve positive social change in the wider community, is the manufacture of Mitz Bags from discarded plastic sweet wrappers in the impoverished area of Palo Solo, Mexico City.
Mitz Bags was started in 2003 to help mothers generate income to support their families. Judith Achar, a teacher at the Montessori Children’s House, a school for underprivileged children, trained the women to make fine handicraft items in innovative designs, such as handbags and pencil cases, from wrappers for sweets such as Oreos and M&M’s, using the ancient Nahua weaving technique. Mitz means ‘for you’ in the native Nahuatl language.
There are now over 80 artisans who have created small home industries with everyone in the family involved – from grandparents and sisters to older children and husbands, cleaning sewing, cutting and weaving. The women organize themselves as co-operatives, with their own committees and functions.
It takes between 16 and twenty hours of skilled labour to make a medium-sized handbag from recycled materials, with the company producing about 2,000 pieces a month. Items are popular in the United States, Mexico and Europe.
10% of the profits are invested in raw materials and marketing and distribution, and 90% of the revenue is given to the artisans as earnings to supplement their income and fund their children’s schooling. 20% of sales cover 25% of the Montessori Children’s House school’s monthly running costs. It is hoped that the business will be consolidated in five more communities and the model replicated in other marginalised communities.