At the One Tech Green Factory, nothing is wasted – recycled wood is used to make furniture and even sawdust gets a second lifespan by being sold to other industries.
And it is precisely this waste-not spirit that first gave birth to Dapo, the first PEFC-certified homeware brand in Malaysia founded in 2015.
PEFC is the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, a leading global alliance of national forest certification systems based in Geneva, Switzerland. Being PEFC-certified means the wood used comes from sustainable forests.
“One of the things we practise here is zero-waste manufacturing. We use all our waste, sawdust and off-cuts, so we decided to use the excess wood from our furniture and cabinets to create our Dapo range, ” says Dapo founder and carpenter Harith Ridzuan, 35, when we met at the brand’s gallery in Kampung Baru Ampang, Selangor.
The eldest of 10 siblings, Harith took over his family’s 27-year-old wooden furniture business in 2008 after graduating from Nottingham University, Britain, majoring in management studies.
Starting a sustainable line of kitchenware was also inspired by his big family’s love for cooking and eating.
“I love cooking and being the eldest, I would cook for my siblings, ” he shares. “That’s why we started with kitchenware first, hence the name Dapo (which comes from the word dapur, or kitchen).”
Today, the brand offers items that range from butter knives, trays, cutting and chopping boards, to coasters, bottle openers and fridge magnets. To date, there are 48 items under 11 different collections in the kitchenware, homeware and gift categories, with the most popular being coasters and phone holders.
The coasters, in batik and classic designs, are made from wood pallets while the handphone holders are actually off-cuts from cutting boards that come with handles.
The items portray simple, classic designs, with attention to detailing. The materials used to craft the products are PEFC-certified balau, acacia and rubberwood from sustainable plantations, and recycled wood.To reduce dependency on plastic, wrapping of the products is done using brown paper or batik cloth, which can be reused. The batik-wrapped items make great gifts too.
Since he first started the business, Harith has observed a growing interest in products that are both well-designed and sustainable.
His customers include locals as well as European, Japanese and Korean expatriates. Dapo’s products are also much sought after by hotels and restaurants – who are keen to support local products – as well as corporate customers looking for sustainable gifts.
The products also have a following abroad; they are exported to eight countries around the world.
“People overseas like wooden kitchenware, which lasts very long for them because they know how to maintain it.
“Taking care of the products is very easy but here, we don’t really have a maintenance culture. For example, most of us would have a wooden spatula at home, but more often than not it would look dull.
“The way to maintain it is to just sand and then coat it with coconut or olive oil. After that, it will look as good as new!” emphasises Harith.
With the recent movement control order, demand for kitchenware and work-from-home items, like phone stands, has increased, says Harith.
He adds that the beauty in wooden items lies in its “inconsistent” colour and pattern.
“For people who appreciate wood, they know that wood comes in different grains and shades. Malaysia has over 200 species of wood and tropical wood, which is denser, is different from temperate weather wood.
“Through Dapo, I also want to showcase our local wood resources and its beauty to more people, especially the lesser-known woods.”
Harith says crafting the kitchenware products produces smaller off-cuts. But those are not wasted either and have been turned into an accessories range under the brand Oran and Bula, launched last November. The brand is the first PEFC-certified fashion accessory brand in Asia.
“We also just launched our e-commerce platform where we will park all our brands under it.
“In the future, we will include other Malaysian-manufactured products on it, as long as they are sustainable and aligned with what we advocate. Eventually, we hope to bring those products to the international markets, ” says Harith.
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