Skip to content

You are using an outdated browser

Internet Explorer is not supported by this site and Microsfot has stopped releasing updates, therefore you may encounter issues whilst visiting this site and we strongly recommend that you upgrade your browser for modern web functionality, a better user experience and improved security.

Upgrade my browser

Repurpose Schoolbags: the upcycled solar-powered backpack

Repurpose Schoolbags: the upcycled solar-powered backpack
Source: Facebook/RepurposeSchoolbags

Repurpose Schoolbags are a social innovation in Africa, made from up-cycled plastic bags and intergrated solar technology, enabling students to study after dark.

Repurpose schoolbag is an upcycled solar-powered schoolbag that addresses more than one issue

Repurpose Schoolbags bring together recycling, solar energy and education for children. Designed to do more with less, they are made from 20 recycled plastic bags. There is a built-in solar panel that charges on the walk to and from school, which later transforms into a light for children to study after dark. Added reflective material on the bag makes it more visible when walking on the street.

Repurpose Schoolbags: giving children a brighter future A Repurpose Schoolbag gives a child dignity by day and by night it doubles as a light to study. Source: Facebook/BrightVibesAfrica

More than just a regular school bag

Millions of school children in South Africa walk long distances to and from school on a daily basis. Once they return home, many of them are unable to study at night due to the absence of secure light sources. 

It is for this reason that Rethaka Ltd., a for-profit, woman-owned business, came up with the inspiring idea of Repurpose Schoolbags. The start-up, founded by Thato Kgatlhanye and Rea Ngwane, collects plastic bags from landfills and participating schools, and recycles them into textiles which are then used to make the bags.

Repurpose Schoolbags are satchels that are recycled from plastic bags. They contain solar panels which are charged during the day, as millions of students walk to and from school every day. The energy stored in the bag can be used as a source of light for children, making study at night possible. 

The bags also increase night time visibility of the students as they walk, due to their retro-reflective material, thereby protecting children from busy traffic. What’s more is that the bags are waterproof, so that textbooks are protected from any rain, and they have trendy and unique designs.

Below, meet Thato Kgatlhanye, the young woman bringing together recycling and solar technology to help township children study once the sun has gone down, and hear her speak about how it all came together.

Source: AyibaMagazine.com

Features of the Rethaka Repurpose Schoolbags

Choice Not Charity From carrying their books in a plastic bag or having no schoolbag at all, by giving a child a Repurpose Schoolbag, it helps to make a change to that child’s life by encouraging that child to commit to staying in school.

Light to Read After Dark Because every Repurpose Schoolbag is fitted with a portable solar panel that turns into desk lamp providing up to 12 hours of light for reading & doing homework.

Safety While Walking to School The Repurpose Schoolbag design integrates retro-reflective material that effectively increases the visibility of children as they walk to school in the early morning, especially during those dark winter morning months.

Rethaka Repurpose Schoolbags now employs 20 people and is planning to expand production to include children’s rain jackets made out of 100% recycled material.

Source: FirstCarRental.co.za

From carrying their books in a plastic bag or having no schoolbag at all, by giving a child a Repurpose Schoolbag, it helps to make a change to that child’s life by encouraging that child to commit to staying in school.
Choice Not Charity From carrying their books in a plastic bag or having no schoolbag at all, by giving a child a Repurpose Schoolbag, it helps to make a change to that child’s life by encouraging that child to commit to staying in school. Source: Facebook/RepurposeSchoolbags
Make an Impact

Rethaka – Become one of their Giving Partners by gifting a child, class or even a school!

You can now get involved and be part of a passionate community invested in a world where education is accessible to everyone.