Tue | Aug 21, 2018

Message in a bag

Published:Sunday | December 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Advertising banner being cut on its way to be transformed into a school bag.
Blueprints of a bag being stencilled on an advertising banner.
Ready to roll: The stencilled pieces, cut and stacked together, ready to be assembled.
Advertising banner being sewn into a school bag.
From the billboard to the classroom - the BannaBags
From the billboard to the classroom - the BannaBags.

Ideas and the process, according to the fundamental principles of Apple, is a product of those who are round pegs in square holes, and those who see things differently and, most times, the bulb glows when one least expects it.

"I was watching a documentary," said
Tricia Williamson, social media and online communications manager,
Jamaica Public Service (JPS), "I saw how, in Africa, they used material
from billboards to make bags, and I thought, why we can't do the same

The light-emitting diodes (LED) of the
television screen transmitted the inspiration and the BannaBags project
was conceived.

The objective was two-pronged,
Williamson said, to reuse and recycle banners and billboards, which
would have found their way into the dump, and to provide a cheap and
sturdy option for school children.

"This project is
addressing a viable need and helping schoolchildren who are in need of
back-to-school supplies, at the same time providing employment for those
who are associated with producing these bags," Williamson

JPS has collaborated with HEART Trust/NTA
GARMEX Academy for the production of BannaBags. The material and designs
are supplied by JPS and the bags are manufactured by the


bright, psychedelic bag with abstract designs is a synergy of the
materials and messages used.

"No two bags are the
same, which gives that personal touch for the user," said Shenee
Tabannah, communications officer at JPS.

From ideation
to the final merchandise, BannaBags go through a series of processes.

"Initially, the biggest challenge was to get the raw
material, but as the word spread, more companies (started) coming on
board," Williamson informed.

At the GARMEX factory,
Clive Walcott, holds an electric-powered cutter moving it over a stack
of vinyl with the same ease that one would run knife through butter,
this is the intermediate process as the advertising banners are

"We have to inspect the banners that come
to us," informed Rita Palmer, deputy manager at HEART Trust/NTA GARMEX

"Some (banners) might not be suitable as
they are very thick, while others are either dirty or worn

Once the vinyl is ready to be processed, it is
spread and the design of the various parts of the bag are marked on

The vinyl is then spread and cut, around 13
plies at a time. The cut vinyl is then sent to the sewing department,
where the wadding and the lining are cut separately, and all the
material is converged, assembled and sewn.

"The whole
process can take around an hour," Palmer said.

"We are
happy for this opportunity," said Arden Grant, principal director HEART
Trust/NTA, "we are using what would have been thrown

"Importantly," she added, "we are able to provide
employment to our trainees, who are exposed to the real world of work.
They can produce similar products once they have

Now in Phase 2, BannaBags project aims to
reach a wide spectrum of students across Jamaica, with support from
corporate groups.

"It is gratifying," Williamson

Messages, it is said are omnipotent and omn
ipresent, and after they have lived their lifecycle in high-traffic
thoroughfares, they are now being spread across the smiles of scores of
school children across the


Photos  by Amitabh Sharma