Galoa women turning trash into cash

In Fiji, a group of 15 dedicated women has been doing their part to create a  circular economy by turning plastic trash into cash. Based in the coastal village of Galoa, the Bulikula Women’s Plastics Group was formed four years ago. 

With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), the women have been trained in making jewellery and household decorations from various plastics that are “thrown around carelessly”. The training was conducted by creative consultant, Warwick Marlow, who has helped several other Pacific women groups earn a living from the trade. 

Galoa women display their handiwork

“Our trainer is of another level. He uses the small cuttings to make cups and he showed us how to do it,” Udite Taukei said proudly. The 66-year-old is the leader of the group and the spouse of the village chief. “I thank UNDP and SPTO for allowing us to take up this project. Apart from the training, we were also provided with the necessary tools and equipment to make the plastic jewellery and decorations.” 

The women meet every Thursday at their community hall where they share creative ways in making and selling their items. Taukei said the women mainly use Vai Wai bottles because “it’s colorful and it stands out.” “We also use other plastic bottles… Fiji Water… Coke… and there is little wastage from the bottles we use,” she said. The price for their products range from as little as FJD$5 to as much as FJD$20. 

Loata Wati, who is 48 years old is also a member of the group. She shared that “this project has made me realise my hidden talents which I can use to earn a living,” From the working tools provided, Wati has been able to make earrings and necklaces to sell to customers at nearby hotels. The money earned from the sales goes towards her family needs. 

“This is a container that stores oil for trucks. They are of different colours. Some are black and some yellow in colour. This is from the Scoops ice cream container. This is Vai Wai and this one is Sprite… and these are all made from Shampoo containers,” Wati explains while pointing out her products. 

“When I look for empty bottles, I collect them from the beach or inside the bus when I see them, and I put them inside my bag. I use my skills and imagination to turn these bottles into earrings or necklaces. I can also make wind chimes. I make plastic fish, turtles and flowers combined with plastic straws, bottle tops and shells in my free time,” Wati told Islands Business

Galoa plastic necklaces

The youngest member of the group is Vasiti Kawau who is 36 years old. “As a single mum, I am very grateful to use these skills and gain meaningful work,” she said. She makes earrings, necklaces and wind chimes of different kinds. Her products were in high demand at a recent event. “We attended the World Ocean Day in Suva and I was surprised to see many wanting our products when they visited our display.” Kawau said she sold all her products in half an hour and earned FJD$150 that day.

“I am very happy because that is my handiwork. I may not be able to ask customers for their feedback but I just observe and  admire them for wearing it,” Kawau said. “The collection and reusing of plastics have allowed us to earn money and keep our beaches, sea and our village clean.” 

The Bulikula Women’s Plastics Group members plan to diversify their products and are looking forward to share their knowledge and skills in Fiji and Samoa in the near future.