New-sprung: the project turning PPE offcuts into Covid patient mattresses


At the top of the pandemic in the Indian state of Kerala, designer Lakshmi Menon, 46, heard that each new Covid care centre needed to have 50 beds. Mattresses had been briefly provide. Every time a patient was discharged, the mattress needed to be incinerated. “I thought: that’s a lot of mattresses and a lot of burning,” says Menon.

Menon’s answer was to gather the mountains of plastic items from factories that make PPE – all the little bits left over after reducing. Women then braid the bits into rope-like plaits 6ft lengthy. The braids are specified by a zigzag and the ends tied collectively. The result’s a light-weight, tender, washable, hygienic mattress for simply 300 rupees (£3) – half the value of a standard one.

The girls of Arayankav close to Kochi, the place Menon lives on a rubber plantation, get jobs, the setting is protected and Covid clinics get mattresses – “shayya” in Sanskrit.

Women in Kerala plait scraps into mattresses.

Women in Kerala plait scraps into mattresses. Photograph: Courtesy of Lakshmi Menon

The concept of utilizing waste scraps got here to her when she was driving to Kochi in February and noticed kids sleeping on the highway. A couple of days later, she visited a buddy who runs a trend home and noticed heaps of waste material of various sizes.

“That’s when I thought I could use braiding to make mattresses for the homeless. Braiding allows you to use every single bit of fabric of different sizes. Even the tiniest bit can be incorporated and everyone knows how to tie a plait,” she says.

In March, she made 20 mattresses and handed them out to homeless households. Then lockdown occurred. Her associates in design and fashion lost business overnight. Workers had been laid off and issues appeared grim.

Menon forgot about the material mattresses, till she went to a buddy’s tailoring unit in July and noticed that he had began making PPE. In the nook lay a mountain of plastic items. Menon’s eyes gleamed.

“I picked them up and found they were cleaner, softer and more dust-free than fabric scraps. It was the best material I could have wished for,” she says.

Her buddy was delighted when Menon took the scrap items. He had been scuffling with learn how to get rid of them as a result of burning was out of the query.

At the identical time Kerala, overwhelmed by the pandemic, ordered the establishing of 50-bed Covid centres throughout the state and village councils scrambled to search out sufficient mattresses.

Apart from the Covid centres which have purchased them, Menon is working with NGOs to offer shayyas to homeless shelters and tough sleepers on the precept that “everyone deserves a good night’s sleep”. India’s 1.7 million homeless individuals usually sleep on the floor, normally on a skinny mat.

Students in India who’re a part of Enactus, the worldwide not-for-profit organisation arrange by accountancy agency KPMG, are engaged on making the mattress extensively obtainable.

“We also feel that yoga centres might be interested in buying them as they are soft and light and easily rolled up,” says Ishartek Pabla, operations head of Enactus at Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies.

Stduents at a Kerala school making mattresses for the local Covid care centre.

Stduents at a Kerala college making mattresses for the native Covid care centre. Photograph: Courtesy of Lakshmi Menon

Menon is unlikely to satisfy a scarcity of uncooked materials. India has turn into the world’s second-largest PPE producer, with greater than 1,000 producers producing 4.5m items a day, the nation’s textile ministry introduced this week.

Menon’s shayya has been taken up by UN workers who will embrace it in an inventory of Covid modern concepts that may be simply replicated.

Several Indian firms have additionally contacted her. “These big companies have to fulfil their corporate social responsibility objectives and the mattress provides a good way of proving income for rural women in a sustainable way with no need for any equipment. Nothing really. Just a bit of space,” says Menon.

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