Thursday, November 03, 2011

Funky Junk: A Second Life for Plastic Bags

Image from the World Challenge 2011 site

Funky Junk is one of the finalists for the 2011 World Challenge which comes from Cambodia, where they trying to minimize the environmental effect of plastic bags while helping the local community.

Although Cambodia is considered as a poor country by world standards, it has been having a steady economic growth over the past 10 years.However the ugly side of development is the waste that it produces. One of the most problematic of these waste products is plastic bags. Because they can't be melted down, plastic bags are very difficult to be recycled, unlike waste like tins and bottles.

This problem was seen by Debbie Watkins and her husband, who were operating an Eco-tourism venture in Cambodia. Their response was to start the Funky Junk project. The aim of this project is to collect the discarded plastic bags and make them into something useful, thereby giving them a second life. The innovative idea they came up with is to make a plastic yarn out of the bags and crotchet them into household items, like bags, cushions, mats etc. The quality of the goods are very high and they are gaining an export market as well.

The process starts by washing and disinfecting the collected bags. Once dried, these are then cut into strip, and these strips a tied together to create the yarn. This yarn is what is used to crotchet whatever designs they come up with.

In Cambodia, the poorest of the poor eke out a living by scouring the garbage dumps and collecting tins, glass and plastic bottle, paper and cardboard, etc. to be sent for recycling. Since there wasn't a demand for the plastic bags, these people wouldn't collect them. With the Funky Junk project, there is now demand for plastic bags, so the collectors have an added income source. For the production process, they are based in a small village in South Cambodia. The people who work are the people from the village. they have identified the poorest among the villages and trained them in the production process. This has given these villagers a vital source of income.

So, this project has many benefits:

  1. It helps to recycle a waste product which wasn't recycled before, thereby reducing environmental damage. 
  2. It provides an extra source of income for the garbage collectors, and gives them an incentive to go out and collect more and more plastic bags. 
  3. It provides a vital income source for poor villagers, who would have had no or very little income. This helps in the betterment of their lives, and in the long run, the betterment of the whole village. 

I think this is a very successful project. A very innovative idea to solve a growing problem, which provides benefits to people while helping to reverse the damage caused to the environment.

Please take some time to visit their site and see what they do.

See the profile on the World Challenge site.


Angel said...

Very funky indeed... there was a similar project in SL where plastic banners/posters were recycled into carry bags... but I think it fizzled out. A lot of dedication is needed to keep something like this going!

Azrael said...

Yes, we tend to start a lot of things but never keeps it going :)