Renuka Krishnan uses her Tee-bags to carry and store fruits and vegetables. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/XPRESS

Dubai: Even as concern mounts over the unchecked use of plastic bags in the UAE, a Dubai resident has demonstrated how to say no to plastic.

Her effort comes in the midst of several awareness campaigns by authorities urging the public to cut down on plastic bags. According to the latest figures, as many as 13 billion plastic bags are consumed in the UAE each year.

Indian Renuka Krishnan, 41, who lives in Jumeirah Park, said it was nine years ago that she decided to alter her lifestyle in order to go plastic free. “I lived in Singapore where plastic consumption was very high. There were several plastic bags in the house which I knew would end up in the landfill. This set me thinking and I decided to say no to plastic. I started taking a cloth bag with me to supermarkets. The first time I did so, the cashier stared at me. Today I am happy to say that my house is almost plastic free.”

Renuka then hit on the novel idea of turning her children’s out-grown T-shirts into grocery bags, which she calls ‘Tee bags’.

“I did not have a clue about how long the fruits and vegetables would last in a cloth bag. Through trial and error I figured out which ones do and which ones don’t.”

Making ‘Tee bags’

The first step is to cut the neck piece and then move onto the sleeves which are cut closer to the hem. The bottom part is closed up and the sleeves serve as the bag handle. It takes Renuka less than five minutes to create a bag out of a T-shirt.

Raising awareness

“My husband and children have been very supportive of my initiative from the start. They too carry the Tee bags to shops. In fact, we are known as the ‘T-shirt family’ at supermarkets and grocery stores. For me that is very encouraging. “When I see people carrying multiple plastic bags, I try talking them against it and also suggest sustainable alternatives to carry their purchases. Some are open to suggestions, unfortunately many are not. They do not want to take that effort of carrying a cloth bag with them to the store. If only we could change the mind-set of people – we would live in a better place.”

Renuka is asking people to drop their old and new T-shirts so she can turn them into bags for them. “I don’t mind knocking on people’s doors to raise awareness. But that is as much as I can do. People on their end need to adopt the initiative as well.”