Muttur or Mutur is a town located in the Trincomalee District part of the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. From Trincomalee, heading South, it takes about forty-five minutes to reach Mutur, following the winding coastal road on the Southern side of the Trincomalee harbour. Before arriving in Mutur, kilometres of white sand beach are covered with colourful fishing boats and fish markets. Mutur is now a predominantly Muslim city. The population of inner Mutur is close to 95% Muslim with a small minority of Christians and Hindus. The Muslim population in the outer Mutur is reaching more than 50%.
The Mutur Recycle Reuse Project could have started in any city or village in the Trincomalee District. The choice of Mutur is symbolic as the Loyola Centre of Ecology & Justice establishes its projects among the most vulnerable members of the society. Hope for profound changes in the society will come from those who are the most affected by pollution and economic inequality. LCEJ refrains from transforming the most fragilized members of the society into object of assistance. They are the subjects of a brighter future, the hope for coming generations.
Mutur is part of the regions of Sri Lanka which have been the most affected by the thirty-year civil war. Many Tamil families had to go into hiding, many husbands, sons, brothers and sisters disappeared, and many young women could not follow an ordinary schooling as they had to support their families. Since the end of the war, those women live in cities and villages where they belong to minorities, with very low incomes, fighting on a daily basis for the survival of their families.
LCEJ, in collaboration with other Associations, gave to five women the opportunity to develop sewing skills by learning how to make reusable eco-bags from recycled material. Insignificant project in the sea of problems our contemporary world is facing. Significant project in the micro landscape of the Trincomalee District endangered by plastic and toxic waste.
In October 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between LCEJ and the Japanese NPO GNADAA (Social Fashion Japan-Sri Lanka Project). LCEJ and GNADAA contributed financially to buying five Singer mechanical sewing machines and an electric one. Furthermore, the necessary material for sewing was also purchased. The recycled material came from Sri Lankan hotels, discarded bed sheets and bed covers, curtains and tablecloths. Some recycled jute bags were also purchased. The five trainees received sewing classes on Saturday morning. In the afternoon, from Monday until Friday, they practiced what they had learned in the afternoon for about four hours. GNADAA gave a monthly remuneration for the five trainees. The key concept of GNADAA activities is the rich concept of Social Fashion. After a few months of training, trainees can start exporting to Japan fashionable eco-bags to generate a positive impact in increasing the awareness about the environmental crisis. The money generated will in turn help the Mutur trainees to develop their activities and have a concrete effect on the environment crisis in Mutur.
Resuming activities on
1 July 2020
The Mutur Recycle Reuse Project entered a difficult period during January 2020. Salaries were not given and a lack of support threatened the development of the project. COVID-19 gave the last blow to the project and activities completely stopped in March. The sewing machines were put in the home of one of the trainees, occupying a good part of a room used as the family bedroom. Father Thierry Jean Roboüam, sj was named the new Director of LCEJ at the beginning of April and reached Trincomalee on May 14. Since then he has been working at restarting MRRP. With the help of the Jesuit NGO MAGIS (Italy), on July 1, the Mutur Eco-Sewing Centre (MESC) was created and the MRRP was revived. The Mutur Recycle Reuse Project is now part of a network of LCEJ projects promoting the creation of zero waste villages, of eco-accountability, and, eco-credibility.
Why using recycled jute bags?
Jute is an eco-friendly material. It uses less water, no chemical pesticides and fertilizers to grow. Recycled jute bags in Sri Lanka have to be bought in specialized shops and have become recently a little costly due to COVID-19 and the reduction of imported goods from South Asian countries. The Mutur Eco-Sewing Centre is producing a new set of eco-bags using recycled jute and recycled cotton. Jute is not an easy material to work with, but the skills and creativity of the LCEJ Associates working in MESC allowed the production of quite fashionable bags. You can judge by yourself.