Making a Difference: Repurpose Schoolbags

WORDS Tudor Caradoc-Davies

A country with challenges is one that creates solutions, and South African firms and individuals are creatively reinventing the way forward. With initiatives like these, the future looks brighter, more informed, and sustainable.

Is it a bag? Is it a lamp? Is it an ingenious recycled product designed to help disadvantaged kids and schools, plus businesses? Try all of the above. Daily in SA, 11.4 million schoolchildren walk to school.

Sadly, on average, three of these learners fall victim to the dangers of our roads and never make it home. Purpose-driven Repurpose Schoolbags is aiming to make a difference to those statistics.

This for-profit, women owned company from Rustenburg in North West Province has come up with a solution that addresses education, at the same time helping brands and their CSI schemes connect with the communities that need them the most. Using recycled plasticbag textiles, Repurpose manufactures durable, waterproof, reflective schoolbags for learners. Worked into the design of the bag is a solar panel that charges as the kids walk to school. Later, at home, their bags transform into solar lanterns that deliver up to 12 hours of light by which to do homework. (Forget kerosene, candles and the fire hazards that come with them.)

The company identifies disadvantaged schools where the scholars have to walk long distances to school, and which lack basic school supplies. It then finds ‘giving partners’ (individuals or corporates) who can match with that school and donate bags to its learners.

According to the team from Repurpose, “Made from 100 per cent plastic shopping bags, children can carry their books in durable, eco-friendly, trendy schoolbags that give them increased working hours after dark, using a safe, renewable energy light source. With completed homework, educators can monitor the progress of their teaching.”

This article was originally featured in IMAGINE. For more information, visit