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Plastic bags repurposed into solar-powered school bags

The school bags can be charged during the day and used as lamplights for evening study sessions.

A 21-year old entrepreneur and her partner, has set the bar for local innovation by turning plastic bags into school bags that double as solar powered lights. Picture: @OfficialRethaka

CAPE TOWN - A 21-year-old entrepreneur and her partner have set the bar for local innovation by repurposing plastic bags into school bags that double as solar-powered lights.

Thato Kgatlhanye, the founder of Repurpose Schoolbags, won second place for the Anzisha Prize, a competition that recognises young South Africans between the ages of 15 and 22 who have started innovative businesses and are creating sustainable employment opportunities.

Kgatlhanye's business employs eight full-time staff members and plastic bag collectors who have accumulated up to 4,000 plastic bags to date.

She recycles the plastic bags into school bags and integrates solar-power packs that allow the bags to be charged during the day and used as lamplights for evening study sessions.

"The whole idea of giving kids a school bag that does more with less is what inspired us. We saw the need in our community and took plastic bags and turned it into a textile like any normal school bag but just a whole lot cooler."

She says the idea originally came as part of a university assignment.

"Creating our business is also realising the importance of an opportunity when there is one."

She says they have also incorporated reflective material into the schoolbags to make kids more visible as they walk.

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