ECONOMYNEXT– Lonali Rodrigo, fashion designer and founder of “House of Lonali,” upcycles out of Sri-Lankan Airlines’ waste materials and makes wallets, books, pouches, travel bags, key tags, jewellery, and photo frames.
Her raw materials consist of waste items such as unusable aircraft seats covers, blankets, uniforms and other items originating from the aircraft.
The airline spends around 500,000 rupees for waste disposal, Anushad Liyanagoda, Captain of Sri Lankan Airlines said.
SriLankan is able to prevent discarded waste material of up to 16 tonnes, while unwanted textiles weighing 167 kilograms is prevented from going to landfill dumps, minimising the long-term negative impacts to the environment, Liyanagoda said.
The upcycled materials, once converted into finished goods, make up a product line of 1,580 products.
“Being a designer, I was thinking how I might be able to find a solution to the problem of waste,” Rodrigo,who is a nature lover, said.
“The more I upcycle, the more experience I get and the more I explored different materials, and the more I worked with divergent cooperatives. I was able to explore ways and possibilities to creatively exploit the waste,” Rodrigo said.
As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative, House of Lonali focuses on empowering women hit by poverty and abuse.
In 2019, Rodrigo joined hands with SriLankan’s “Mathaka” project, and eight months later, retailing had commenced.
The airline project became a turning point in Rodrigo’s life.
“It is not easy to deal with tons of waste, and there is a variety of garments we deal with, so we have to be very creative with each piece that we are given,” she said
Upcycling the projects has to come with a creative turn, Rodrigo said.
“Joining SriLankan Airlines in this project has helped us expand ourselves with good exposure. For a small brand, the biggest benefit is joining hands with a bigger brand,” Rodrigo said.
Rodrigo’s biggest support system is her family, she said. While she learns her entrepreneurial skills from her father husband who works in the IT sector assists her in the digital and technical end of retail.
Anushika Priyadarshni, a 31- year- old, housewife, living in Hokandara, Sinhapura, who has been a part of the Mathaka project for eight years8 said she has seen financial changes in her life after she juggled flexible working and household duties.
A mother of two schooling children, Priyadarshani is able to contribute to her family whilst working.
“The work hours are very flexible andI can manage sewing while taking care of the children,” she said.
Priyadarshani has not taken on the project alone., Hher husband also helps as an apparel cutter.
“My husband cuts the material while I sew the product.,”
“It’s a privilege to give a hand to the family income since one -person earning is a not enough in the current situation” she added.
Sri Lanka’s sky rocketing cost of living has led to a situation where more than one member of the family is compelled to find wor.
“There is a lot we have accomplished financially through this project., We built a small house of our own in front of our parent’s house,”said Priyadharshani.
Her day begins early in the morning when she cooks for the family and drops the children at school.
“When the kids are at school I start sewing and when they are home I spendt time with them helping them with their homework. If I get any free time, sew.”
Priyadarshini’s main products consist of bags and pouches, and in December she earned an income of 54,000 rupees., However, earnings tend to fluctuate
“I feel productive when I work rather than staying home without doing anything and it is more encouraging when you receive a good sum of money for the effort you put into it,” she said. (Colombo/Feb02/2023)