Whenever it rains in Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur, Zuramaisarah Abdullah, 15, will worry. Living near Chow Kit market, she has seen countless plastic bottles, leaves and food containers clogging up the monsoon drains after heavy downpours.
“It’s worse around Chow Kit Market where vendors throw away food, vegetable waste and rubbish. Plastic waste discarded inappropriately often find its way into drainage systems. Often, plastic bottles accumulating in drains cause water to back up and overflow onto streets and sidewalks around my neighbourhood,” says Zuramaisarah during an interview in Kuala Lumpur recently.
Concerned about the environmental impact, Zuramaisarah and 37 of her schoolmates from Buku Jalanan Chow Kit recently participated in the Sea of Colours Upcycle Art Jam workshop at Muzium Telekom in KL.
Organised by Ekha Langkawi, a company that promotes sustainable upcycling, and supported by Yayasan TM, the workshop aimed to empower students with recycling knowledge and create awareness about a greener future.
Ekha Langkawi founder Rebecca Yau, 40, curated the workshop in line with World Environment Day, which took place on June 5.
“While there are many forms of materials that can be upcycled, I believe that plastic drinking bottles, being relatable to the students’ age group, would have a significant impact on their awareness and inspire them to continue upcycling.
“We got them to comprehend how we can easily recreate and upcycle plastic bottles with ordinary household equipment like scissors, candles and paint, and turning them into decorative items. The idea here is to inspire and to pass on creative solutions to advocate the continuity of upcycling,” says Langkawi, Kedah-based Yau, who has been organising recycling workshops across Langkawi, Penang and the Klang Valley for almost five years.
At the workshop, the students first cut the bottles into various shapes, such as stars, flowers and marine life. After glazing the cutouts over fire and painting them with acrylics, the pieces were strung together into an eye-catching hanging decorative artwork now on display at Muzium Telekom.
In total, they transformed about 1,000 recycled plastic drinking bottles, donated by the USJ 9 recycling centre in Subang Jaya.
“Some of my friends cut out shapes like alphabets, vegetables and cathedral windows from recycled plastic bottles. I was inspired to cut out fruits in different shapes and sizes,” Zuramaisarah explains.
For Zuramaisarah and her peers, the workshop taught them the art of crafting and instilled a sense of responsibility towards protecting the environment.
“I truly enjoyed the workshop because I learned how used drinking bottles can be transformed into different things. This is a good way to encourage students to
recreate things using our imagination.
Hopefully, I can introduce this upcycling concept to people from my community and reduce plastic waste around Chow Kit. Slowly, we can make the world a
better place,” Zuramaisarah shares.
Throughout the workshop, Yau encouraged the students to tap into their artistic side and dive deep into their originality of thoughts.
“We want them to be curious, to dare to try and explore. We want to showcase the fun of remaking and redesigning recyclable things.
“We also took the initiative to collaborate with Cult Gallery, a KL private contemporary art gallery, in sponsoring five upcycled sculptures by Sarawakian artist Mazlan Samawi which were exhibited during the workshop. Hopefully Mazlan’s mini exhibition further exposed the children to a higher level of upcycling art.”
Yau’s aim is to encourage students to think outside the box and foster innovation. By transforming discarded bottles into artful pieces, students can learn how to minimise plastic’s environmental impact.
Upcycling promotes resourcefulness and serves as a reminder of our responsibility to the planet, inspiring others to adopt eco-friendly practices, she shares.
“The students used close to 1,000 bottles during the workshop that could be enough to fill up a baby pool.
“They have witnessed the abundance of recycled plastic, how it could be turned into something useful so quickly, and how their efforts and creativity can save the environment for a better future. Imagine if the 1,000 bottles had found their way to the sea.
“People should upcycle plastic bottles into decorative items because it’s a sustainable and creative solution. Moreover, upcycled plastic bottle decorations can add a unique charm to spaces, reflecting personal styles while starting conversations about sustainability.
“It’s a small action with a significant impact, empowering individuals to make a difference and contribute to a greener future,” Yau explains.
The Sea of Colours Upcycle Art Jam workshop has certainly empowered these young eco-warriors, equipping them with the knowledge and inspiration to make a difference. Their creative endeavours serve as a testament to the potential of upcycling and its ability to create a more sustainable world.