Events in Nepal are incomplete without food, long speeches, and banners. Think huge flex prints and painted cloth banners. No event goes without declaring itself and banners serve that purpose. But the thing is, more often than not, the minute the event is over the banners are the first thing to go. Inevitably they end up being dumped as garbage. This was something Rushka Sthapit could not come to terms with.
“Flex prints use plastic, PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) at that too, and there are no ways to effectively dispose them without causing a significant damage to our environment,” says Rushka. And so, for a long time, she looked into ways through which these banners could be reused and today, through Metta Ktm, she is doing exactly that.
Metta (Buddhist word for benevolence) Ktm is an online-based sustainable lifestyle brand that produces bags and other utility products using discarded banners. As of the moment, Metta Ktm sells shopping bags, document holders, toiletries pouches, key chain holders and will soon launch their range of laptop holders. Metta Ktm collects banners from events and reaches out to companies to gather as many unwanted banners as they can. After inspecting the banners to check their conditions, they are cleaned and cut into different pieces and then stitched to make bags of various shapes and sizes.
Rushka has been working with banners and producing banner made products since 2012 but it was only in February this year that Metta Ktm was officially registered. From conceptualization to designing to banner collection, Rushka does everything on her own. It didn’t help that convincing companies to part with banners they no longer use was no easy task. Rushka recalls the many taxing hours she has had to spend explaining her work to people and the skepticism she has often had to face.
Sometimes even after providing detailed explanations the banners she would get would be few and small sized. Sometimes she would be given billboard banners scorched by sunlight and these would be completely faded. It would also be impossible to use these banners as these would tear very easily. A few times the banners she has received have been downright filthy. Despite all the troubles she had to go through to acquire these banners, many had to be discarded and this, Rushka says, felt quite demoralizing.
“Not having to throw them away was our goal in the first place and it felt as though we were going against our business ethics. Plus it got very frustrating to see our efforts not yield fruitful results,” Rushka claims. Although these are problems Metta Ktm faces even today, Rushka is determined to push through and tackle these obstacles.
As of the moment, the Metta Ktm team comprises of Rushka and two other workers. Both the workers were trained under CWIN’s vocational training program and they are responsible for all the stitching and making the bags. Rushka looks after the designing aspect. For her, the designing process is fairly simple because Metta Ktm favors minimal styles and designs. Rushka often turns to Pinterest for ideas. “There are many designs that suit banner bags so we’re always developing new products and will be releasing more in the future,” she says.
Because no two banners are the same, no two Metta Ktm products are the same either. What you see on the product image will most definitely not be what you receive. Rather than this being a cause of concern, Rushka notes this has added value to Metta Ktm’s products and the company as whole. “I think it’s to do with the fact that our customers receive products that are one of a kind. There’s also the surprise element of not knowing what you will receive upon placing your order,” she explains. This aspect of their business, she says, has been one that they’re often appreciated for.
Besides being durable, Metta Ktm’s products are also affordable. Their products are priced between Rs 150 to Rs 700, the latter being the price for their largest bag. In many respects, Rushka has observed that the younger crowd is more receptive and appreciative of their efforts and products. “We sometimes participate in upcycling exhibitions and it’s the students who show more interest in what we are doing. They ask legit and important questions and tell us that they’re really inspired by our work,” says Rushka adding that this is a much needed morale boost for her and her team.
Despite their efforts, Rushka admits that Metta Ktm is only working on a small scale. They have produced bags for the last seven years and yet they haven’t been able to put the word out in the market. The staffs at Metta Ktm work for 15 days a month and make the products in limited quantities. This is what Rushka hopes to change moving forward. “We want more and more people to be enthusiastic about sustainable ways of living. It’s high time we think about our responsibility towards our planet. One slight change in your lifestyle is a significant step. You should take it,” says Rushka.
Besides bags, Metta Ktm plans on venturing into decor items as well, all made with banners of course. Ruskha believes, with a little creativity, they can put old banners to various good uses and prevent them for being discarded.