Let me first make it clear, I live for Upcycle Hawaii, upcycling and repurposing. It’s the reason I get out of bed every morning, what consumes my every waking minute and the reason I go to bed most nights filled with new ideas. But… I don’t think that upcycling is "the solution" to our overwhelming problem with waste management and (plastic) pollution.
The look on people’s faces when they realize that our products are actually made from “trash” is intoxicating to me. In fact, whenever working a live event or pop-up, I always wait a little bit before asking each potential customer if they know what they are looking at. In many cases, they aren’t sure. That allows the chance for us to reveal the “raw materials” in a sort of “ta-da” like fashion when our patron realizes that the earrings they were admiring are actually made from toilet paper wrappers or marine debris. (Cue surprised look from them, satisfied look from me, lol.). It’s an interaction that we hope has a lasting impact.
I have often said that I really dislike the word “trash” when it comes to its use in reference to garbage or what I prefer to call waste. Trash as a word has such a negative connotation. In fact, I have used the words trash and garbage as terms of condescension over my lifetime. What is the act that turns a perfectly reusable, “repurposable” or recyclable material into trash? Is it when it hits a garbage bin or when we decide that we no longer have any personal use for it? Instead of using the word trash in this way, I prefer to look at a large percentage of our current waste stream as overlooked and under-appreciated materials.
The reason that expression I described earlier is soo satisfying to me is because I am literally watching someone’s long-held perspective shift. (Even if ever so slightly.) That look of surprise holds within it a little realization that perhaps we have been looking at things wrong, or at least not as we should be. That look inevitably sparks a conversation about plastic, consumption, recycling, and even zero waste. And, of course, the question: “how can we give you our plastics?”
And to that question, I always have the same answer: “our challenge to you is to buy and use less plastic… but, for that which you must purchase, we are happy to do our best to give it a second life.” We love our jobs, mission and customers here at Upcycle Hawaii. Of course, we don’t want you to stop buying our products and want you to buy more, wink wink. However, our goal is to help reduce the amount of unnecessary and single-use materials from our economy as possible. Our goal is to shift manufacturing from a linear model to a circular one. We WANT you to put us out of business by reducing our waste-stream so dramatically that we are no longer inundated with more plastic packaging that our facility can process.
So, yeah, in a way we kind of do want you to put us out of business, or at least try. I’d love to have you email me one day or meet you at a market and you can tell me your story of how you’ve made a shift towards a zero-waste and more sustainable life, perhaps inspired partly by us. The only thing better than seeing that look from our patrons is hearing the stories of how we inspired them to live, even if just a little more, plastic-free.
Mahalo for reading and being a part of #teamtrashionista! See you next post, Mattie Mae Larson 👋🏽
One of our products that was designed to reduce single use plastic: Our Fused Plastic "Bring-Your-Own" Cutlery Pouch Sets. Complete with Bamboo Cutlery, easy clean upcycled carry pouch and a carabiner for easy access!
$30.00 These slide pouches are handmade using reclaimed sheet plastics collected from local businesses. Heat and pressure are applied to melt multiple layers of plastics together in a hand-fusing process creating a thick and resilient base material suitable for long-term reuse.… Read More
Fused Plastic "Bring-Your-Own" Slide Pouch and Cutlery Sets
These slide pouches are handmade using reclaimed sheet plastics collected from local businesses. Heat and pressure are applied to melt multiple layers of plastics together in a hand-fusing process creating a thick and resilient base material suitable for long-term reuse.… Read More