By: Valerie Dei

Thato and Rea both founded Repurpose School Bags, a company that produces recycled backpacks at low-cost for disadvantaged students in their local community in South Africa.

Their young business collects and recycles plastic waste to produce school bags for local students. But that’s not just it. These recycled plastic bags have a solar panel in the flap, which charges as the children walk to and back from school. The bags also have strips of reflective material, an added safety design to make the children more visible to traffic in the early hours.

The charged solar panels are used to provide lighting at night. Students can use this light to do their homework and study instead of using candles. This helps students to do more school work and saves money which could have been spent on candles.

Thato and Rea have partnered with local individuals and organizations that are willing to cover the cost of the bags on behalf of the students. Depending on their donation, these so-called “giving partners” are typically matched to a class, a grade or a school.

This simple but highly effective idea has attracted quite a lot of attention. In 2014, they were the first runner-up at the Anzisha Prize, a pan-African award celebrating entrepreneurs aged 15-22 who have come up with innovative ways to solve problems in their communities.


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