At the age of 21, Thato Kgatlhanye embarked on a remarkable journey by founding Repurpose Schoolbags. In her community, many children were using plastic bags as book bags, a situation she was determined to change. Recognizing an opportunity, Thato decided to transform these bags into something more durable and environmentally friendly.
The innovative school bags she created were crafted from upcycled plastic bags, incorporating solar technology and batteries to provide essential light for students to study after sundown. Today, Thato oversees a thriving company with a dedicated team of 17 employees and a network of plastic bag collectors. Her inspiration for integrating solar technology came from a conversation with her mother, who shared her own experience of studying by candlelight, which proved unreliable as the candles often burned out by midweek.
Thato’s outstanding work has garnered international recognition. She has been featured on prestigious platforms like CNBC Africa and Forbes. Her achievements include winning the ELLE International Impact2 Award and establishing partnerships with prominent organizations such as the MTN Foundation and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Looking ahead, Repurpose Schoolbags is committed to expanding its reach, aiming for mass distribution and production to positively impact even more lives.