At the height of the pandemic in the Indian state of Kerala, fashion designer Lakshmi Menon, 46, heard that every new Covid care centre had to have 50 beds. Mattresses were in short supply. Every time a patient was discharged, the mattress had to be incinerated. “I thought: that’s a lot of mattresses and a lot of burning,” says Menon.
Menon’s solution was to collect the mountains of plastic pieces from factories that make PPE – all the little bits left over after cutting. Women then braid the bits into rope-like plaits 6ft long. The braids are laid out in a zigzag and the ends tied together. The result is a light, soft, washable, hygienic mattress for just 300 rupees (£3) – half the price of a normal one.
The women of Arayankav near Kochi, where Menon lives on a rubber plantation, get jobs, the environment is protected and Covid