THE exciting 14th general election that occupied most conversations for more than a month is over and candidates from all parties have since then been given two weeks to remove bunting, banners and posters used during the campaigning period.
It seems wasteful to throw away these campaign materials as it cost quite a bit to print them and the bulk of waste will only burden our already strained landfills.
Environmentally-conscious candidates have received some help in finding ways to prevent these materials from ending up at our landfills, as non-profit groups are turning these things into useful and practical items that can help charities at the same time.
Creative individuals and groups have taken to upcycling these banners, flags, posters and bunting into bags, while others are using wooden flag poles for gardening purposes.
The Berani Project, which helps marginalised communities such as refugees, is one of numerous organisations putting those discarded materials to good use.
Its founder Tan Chia Wei, 39, (pic below) is upcycling campaign materials into bags and wallets.
She has been busy making bag prototypes with materials which she collected from EcoKnights, a non-profit environmental group.
“I wanted some of the banners for my Berani Project.
“After seeing social media posts by Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh that she had surrendered her post-election campaign banners and bunting to EcoKnights, I contacted them.
“EcoKnights said I could have the banners and bunting so I went and filled up my car boot with them,” said Tan, who works full-time as a marketing manager in the financial technology sector.
She experimented with the banners by turning them into wallets and bags.
“Once the ideas are finalised and I have a few prototypes in hand, I will teach refugees and the Yayasan Chow Kit children how to make these bags.
“They can then sell these items and generate an income for themselves. I believe we can make some nice looking wallets with these banners,” said the mother of one.
Yeoh said she printed about 400 banners and this cost her more than RM20,000.
Similarly Bukit Gasing assemblyman Rajiv Rishyakaran, Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng and Batu MP P. Prabakaran’s campaign materials were sent to EcoKnights.
EcoKnights founder Yasmin Rasyid said this was the first time the environment group reached out on social media to welcome election candidates dropping off their campaign banners and bunting.
When more campaign materials piled up at the EcoKnights centre in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, other non-profit groups requested some for their projects.
“There were members of the public who requested for the banners and bunting for keepsake and we allowed them to take some.
“We also had requests from Berani Project which wanted to upcycle these items.
“We are planning to keep the rest for our outreach programmes.
“We can use these sheets for outdoor activities like when we make mudballs in our river rehabilitation projects.
“These banners and bunting are durable and we can reuse them,” Yasmin added.
Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah will be donating her campaign banners to a social enterprise called Biji-biji Initiative.
Biji-biji co-founder Rashvin Pal Singh said this was the first time it would use election campaign materials to make bags (below).
“We have previously made bags with other types of banners and bunting.
“With election materials, we will try to avoid portions that show the candidates’ faces, and feature the banner’s coloured parts instead.
“These items will be for sale and the money generated will help keep our enterprise sustainable,” he said.
Founded in 2013, Biji-biji’s mission is to reduce waste by designing and building products out of discarded materials.
Kinrara assemblyman Ng Sze Han said he disliked the idea of throwing away campaign materials.
“The women in my team are creative and came up with the idea to turn the banners into bags,” said Ng, a second-term assemblyman.
“My team and I could not bear to see these things go to waste so we decided to make shopping bags. We have been doing it since GE13.
“We made about 100 bags the last time and gave them away at my events.
“We have continued recycling banners since then,” he added.
Durian Guest House owner Chang Thai Soon, 39, requested for some flag poles from the candidates after the elections.
The guest house operator in Kulai, Johor, said he wanted to use the poles in his garden.
However, the candidates sent flag poles that had flags attached.
“I was told to throw away the flags but my wife decided to experiment with the fabric instead.
“She made shopping bags with them which we may sell later,” said Chang, who believes in upcycling items.
He uploaded photos of the shopping bags his wife made on his Durian Guest House Facebook page and had received 2,000 likes and over 1,500 shares.
“Over the years I have realised that we are a wasteful society. We throw things away without recycling.
“I feel we must minimise waste,” said Chang, who has also made benches and small household things with recycled items.
Meanwhile, full-time homemaker Hanayo Sato, a Japanese married to a Malaysian, took several of the political party flags and turned them into furoshiki -- a traditional Japanese wrap used for carrying gifts and items. She makes them for her personal use.