No way... This can be reused?!
As a society, we are usually far too quick to deem objects as useless trash. Although not being entirely “zero-waste” we have long advocated for re-using our everyday waste such as glass, paper boxes (e.g. we in WOMB ship in reclaimed paper boxes instead of producing new ones), even plastic if you cannot avoid it.
What about other fully functional materials that could be entirely useful again if only slightly transformed in form? There is plenty of things that we tend to waste massively, but can be creatively altered to serve us again. Umbrellas, workwear… even skateboards? Who would have thought, right?!
Take a look at a list that we compiled for you, to prove that even if it's unusual - does not mean its impossible! Here come brands who are dedicated to some of the most unusual up-cycling practices!
It is really one of the most unique and beautiful projects in Hong Kong right now, because it has not only incredible creative approach, but also immense social impact. As they say ourselves about their mission:
"V Cycle is a social enterprise tackling Hong Kong’s environmental issues on both an ecological and human level. By coupling the two, we can empower the underprivileged and protect the natural world.”
All those who live in Hong Kong, know the typical but ever-heartbreaking sight of the elderly trash pickers. They are the under-privileged elderly who do not have any state-guaranteed pension and no one to rely on financially. They are forced to pick trash, in city spots like Lan Kwai Fong - a place beloved by expats during every weekend. Most recently, VCycle set up its goal at collecting 10 tones of plastic bottles which they later intend to change into material suitable to weave tote bags. All the proceedings earned from the bags will later be distributed among the trash-pickers' community, helping them financially and alleviating hardship of their work. In the practice of VCycle, a simple object such as a plastic bottle is a building block towards an important social goal. Click here to learn more!
Creativity around waste can come from social calling, as seen above, but also from passion! Imagine you have a hobby that you feel very passionate about, but it generates some unusual waste that might even feel emotional for you to get rid of? This is the scenario that inspired the team from BoardThing to up-cycle the wood waste from broken skateboards that gets destroyed while they skate. The life of a skateboard is usually quite short, especially if it is utilised often. At the same time, Canadian maple wood, that typically builds up skateboards, is very visually appealing and, paradoxically, fairly durable.
That is why, BoardThing crew decided to re-use the wood that comes from destroyed skateboards and create unique accessories from it - rings, herb grinders, necklaces… and hell, they are really good at it! Their signature product, the wooden rings (which can also come with an added silver band version) come in unique patterns and are water-resistant and very durable - the brand gives 5 years warranty for their products. They also make donation to the One Tree Planted organisation for every sold item. A perfect example of how to turn passion into a good, valuable and environmentally-friendly product.
Who would have thought? If you look around, no need to look far actually, there is plenty of stuff that is needed on a daily basis but gets discarded and wasted later on. One London-based brand turned their eyes to something that probably goes unnoticed most of the time: workwear.
We have all seen it but maybe haven't paid much attention: black or grey workwear lined with reflective yellow or orange elements. AFTER:WORK decided to re-use this easily recognisable and durable materials, after they are no longer needed. Their small but clearly defined collection involves small card holders, pocket, tote and shopping bags. The forms are simple and timeless but the concept remains unique and interesting. Why PPE (personal protective equipment), you ask?
"In the United Kingdom alone, over 1500 tonnes of PPE is discarded each year. Approximately 90% of this is sent to landfills or incinerated."
Another brand that we wish to familiarise you with, we discovered during our last trip to Portugal. Eunice from Maria Granel (biggest zero-waste store in Portugal) was kind enough to show it to us and we loved it at first sight. Zouri's product is a direct answer to the sad reality described in their statement below:
"Over 220 million tons of plastic are produced each year. About 8 million ends up in the ocean. More than one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year from plastic debris. Unless we take action, by 2050 our oceans will contain more plastic than fish."
Zouri aims at building a network that cares and works together towards plastic free oceans, organises local initiatives that push to action and, as a by-product of their activities, they create a small collection of “eco-vegan footwear”. Each pair of Zouri shoes is an equivalent of 6 plastic bottles.
According to all the apocalypse visionaries and “we will all drown in trash” proclaimers, we are doomed. But the hope is, we can still try to reuse the plastic we already produced and wasted - with right amount of creativity, innovation and motivation, it is possible to collect plastic from beaches and oceans and build awesome products from it.
With their bold statement “Do good. Look incredible.”, Veerah sets the bar high for the shoes designers and producers. With a very wide range of organic and natural fibres that they use, such as soy-based ink (as opposed to commonly used petroleum-based one), fabric developed from recycled PET bottles, apple peel leather, cork and many more, they are a 100% PETA-approved vegan brand. Yes, you heard us right - apple peel! Some of the most beautiful vegan shoes that we have seen are made of this sort of leather - and it looks incredibly similar to natural one! At the same time, they are offering a premium, very well finished product. If you are in need for it, they can even fix you up with a pair of wedding shoes - however, that’s still in a pre-order stage.
Did we get a “WOW” or what?!
We hope you will look at discarded materials in a slightly more favourable way. When in case of food the general rule of thumb is usually that is has first and simultaneously last freshness, when it comes to fabrics and functional materials, it should not be the case. When you get rid of something - try making sure if someone, somewhere is not creating cool things with it! Similarly when you consume - ask yourself if there might be a slightly more sustainable and unique product out there? Give those unsung heroes some credit!