Turning Trash into Treasure
WOMB'S TAKE ON upcycling
If we only used the things that had been already produced and lay on the surface of our planet at the moment, probably we would not have to manufacture anything new for quite some time. It seems obvious, however nowadays we treat more and more objects as disposables. It was not the case even in the non-distant past - our grandmas often made clothes and jewellery on their own, and would rarely discard them later. They would carry their own bags or re-use plastic ones while shopping, disposable cups were very uncommon, fabric handkerchiefs were a must (my grandma always hid one in her sleeve - what about yours?).
The solutions for reducing waste and saving the renewable resources are flooding us (by the way, have you seen this cool TED talk on thrifting - not quite the Macklemore style, even though the man had a point), yet, it is hard to notice any progress.
Of course, mindfulness while shopping would be ideal, but we have to face the simple fact - there’s already a whole lotta trash around. Nearly everything is packed in some sort of plastic and cheap stuff is so easy to buy that we do not feel the need to prolong the life of any of the objects we own (maybe apart from that iPhone, if you happen to be short of cash).
So what do we do with all this trash? The topic might be touchy and seemingly distant, but is all the more relevant in places like Hong Kong, which might soon be drowning in trash that it cannot send away anymore (yeah, China has been perky about that lately, ey?).
Upcycling does seem like a remedy here, with its basic aim being re-defining by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted fabrics in order to create products of better quality or for better environmental value.
Trash is being re-defined and more and more often used as precious (and cheap!) building material. Like in the instance of JOLENE JOLENE, a brand founded by Jolene Fung, using plastic bags to make accessories. “Up-cycling for me means giving material a second life, a new story and personality. The product is often more unique and unlike any other mass-produced equivalent.” - says Jolene.
In costy places like Hong Kong, where virgin material is simply out of the budget range for a lot of starting designers, re-using materials, that cannot break down in soil anyway, seems like hell of a good idea.
Another rather awesome quality of up-cycling is the way it re-invents the value of seemingly ordinary things. WYROB, a one-woman brand from Poland, uses tiny soda pop tabs to make beautiful, unique bags. In conversation with its founder, Magdalena Wojdylo, we hear: “Even though each piece requires 20 hours of manual work on average and minimum 600 tabs, the final piece is always original, one of a kind and simply beautiful. This is why I’m so passionate about upcycling and giving second life to otherwise useless materials.”
Bridging the gap between ‘useless’ and ‘unique’ is an incredible activity and the amount of skill and creativity it requires goes without mentioning. ‘New’ does not mean ‘better’ anymore, and anyone who still thinks so just doesn’t adapt fast enough.
Passion + saving the world one step at a time = BOARDTHING, and we absolutely adore this equation. What happens when you hold dear an object and you really don’t want to say goodbye to it because it has served you so well? That was exactly the dilemma that the skaters from BoardThing collective were facing. ‘Were’, because they found a way to preserve their precious skateboards after they broke - they started to reuse the wood (Canadian maple - the main component) to make rings and other small accessories. The effect is both cheeky and sleek - oh, oh and for every purchase they actually support One Tree Planted NGO. Do we really need to say more?
Up-cycling is not a domain of hermits and tree-huggers, it is a practice that enters mass production. Adidas has already created a line of sneakers using ocean waste, dead stock is more and more often grabbing attention as useful… As important as it is in the context of mass production, it is crucial to also make an active effort to discover what small studios and individual designers are coming up with, since those are usually the ones who drive disruption. So go everybody, do your extra research, move beyond the chain stores and find those awesome creatives for your clothes, jewellery, accessories and you only know what else… or even, maybe, try re-using something for a change? And remember - it’s not waste until it’s wasted!