Esther Cheelo shows a table mat made from discarded bottle lids in Livingstone, Zambia, Nov. 12, 2023. (Photo by Lillian Banda/Xinhua)
LIVINGSTONE, Zambia, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Esther Cheelo, a 30-year-old resident of Livingstone town, Zambia's tourist destination, is changing her life for the better by transforming discarded metal beverage lids into stunning table mats.
Through her innovative recycling business, Cheelo not only champions environmental sustainability but also secures a reliable income for herself.
Cheelo's creative journey began over five years ago when she noticed discarded bottle lids cluttering the streets and harming the environment. Motivated to find a solution, she took the initiative to repurpose these waste materials into something practical and valuable.
"I saw an opportunity to contribute to saving the environment while creating a livelihood. That's when I decided to learn how to craft table mats using bottle lids as the base," she said.
Demonstrating resourcefulness, she makes partnerships with local drinking establishments to collect the discarded bottle lids. Collection boxes placed in these venues encouraged patrons and employees to deposit used lids.
"I've partnered with five drinking places in Livingstone town," she said. "For every box full of lids, I give each place 150 Zambian Kwacha (about 6.5 U.S. dollars)."
Cheelo's process involves thorough cleaning and disinfection of the lids before transforming them into beautiful table mats using sewing threads and cotton fabric.
"I make a minimum of 70 table mats per month, selling each at an average of 50 Zambian Kwacha (around 2.17 dollars)," said Cheelo, who manages a curios stand at Mukuni Park, a renowned art center in Livingstone's central business district.
In addition to the table mats, Cheelo also crafts earrings from discarded bottle lids and resells various curios.
Her table mats have gained popularity among locals and tourists for their craftsmanship, blending functionality with artistic elegance, enhancing any dining setting.
John Mulenga, a 70-year-old arts and crafts enthusiast in Livingstone, praised the quality and uniqueness of Cheelo's creations. He encouraged other local artisans to follow her lead in promoting environmental sustainability.
"These table mats are not only durable but also beautifully crafted. It is inspiring to witness someone utilizing waste materials to create practical items," Mulenga said, adding that Cheelo's work showcases how creativity and entrepreneurship can drive sustainable practices, shaping a greener future for Livingstone while empowering its community. ■