Egypt produces an estimated 40 tons of trash a day, according to the World Bank. Only 60% is collected, and just 15% is properly recycled or reused. The rest is thrown out the car window, piled up in alleyways, or schlepped up to the roof, where it can rot out of sight.
While the country figures out a long-term solution to the trash problem, some Egyptian designers have embraced the recycling cause, transforming used tires, and discarded soda cans and plastic bags into unique jewelry, stationary, and furniture.
In honour of World Environment Day, celebrated Wednesday, we’d like to introduce you to a few designers who are making recycling stylish:
Reform Studio makes fabric out of plastic bags, which they then use to upholster sleek, stylish chairs. The fabric, hand woven on a loom, is made of 67% reused plastic bags and 33% recycled cotton – but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. The chairs, which come in every color from trendy neon to classic neutral, are artistic and inviting.
“We can no longer afford to not think about sustainability,” said Hend Riad, co-founder of Reform Studio.
Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, she said. Burning them is bad for the environment and recycling is costly because it consumes a lot of energy.
“The only solution is to reuse them and extend their life cycle,” Riad said.
Genuine Plastic Bags
Designers Yara Yassin and Rania Refai have devised another way to make plastic bags fashionable: making them into handbags and accessories.
The designers named their line Genuine Plastic Bags as a joke. “People take pleasure in reading ‘genuine leather’ when they buy a product, and don’t take into account the animal that was killed to make it,” Yassin said. Similarly, she said, many Egyptians don’t give much thought to the environmental consequences of not recycling.
“Egypt is a developing country, and like all developing countries, it looks at developing as quickly as possible without much attention to its resources,” she said. “We cannot afford this and we want to see it change.”
The company’s products, including purses, cell phone covers, and laptop cases, are bold and colorful. Yassin and Fefai use the graphic elements of the plastic bags in the designs, so each product is unique.
Designers Maram Elshenaway and Yomna Seoudi can turn just about anything into home décor.
The creative minds behind the brand Reshakle, the two specialise in repurposing discarded things into funky furniture and lighting fixtures. They have turned old suitcases into coffee tables, discarded compact discs into chandeliers, worn out jeans into wallets, and bald tires into footstools.
The company was inspired by a university project, Elshenaway said, where the two made handbags out of old window screens. At first, the two just used junk they found laying around the house, now all of the materials for their designs come from industrial leftovers.
“Everything contains a value,” she said. “Even if you don’t need it anymore, it could be important for others.”