Hobbyists upcycle takeaway food packaging into useful items for home

WITH the introduction of movement control order (MCO), there has been an increase in takeaways as people are prohibited from eating in food establishments.

This has resulted in an increase in plastic containers being used to pack food and drinks, which would lead to an increase in solid waste.

But with some creativity and a little ingenuity, those plastic food packaging can be saved from the landfill.

StarMetro finds two hobbyists who upcycle those food containers and simultaneously help Mother Earth.

Yong and her daughter creating decorative items using single-use plastics.Yong and her daughter creating decorative items using single-use plastics.

The right resources

Margaret Cheong Mei Yee, a 41-year-old research chemist, sees herself as more of a resourceful person rather than creative.

“Being pragmatic and parsimonious help because we tend not to rush out to buy things unless absolutely necessary.

“So I find ways to repair things and when they have outlived their original purpose, I try to use them as something else by turning them into other practical items, ” she said.

Her habit of recycling things has paid off in her business of selling hydroponic products.

“I make use of the carrier bags and bubble wraps that I have collected over many years, so I cut costs for my business and save the environment at the same time.

“The disposable plastic food containers and polystyrene boxes that I collect from my colleagues are used to plant seedlings.

“They work great as seedling starter kits because the cover prevents evaporation of water and provides a dark environment for the rooting process to take place, ” she explained.She has always held dear to the principle of “reduce, reuse and recycle.”

“I try to switch to products that are made from sustainable sources or using recyclables.

“I reduce consumption and reuse things to reduce wastage.

 Cheong showing the seedling starter kits she made from takeaway food boxes.Cheong showing the seedling starter kits she made from takeaway food boxes.

“Recyclables such as plastics, aluminium and papers are sorted out before being sent to a collection centre.

“If each of us always remember that we are actually just borrowing the planet from our children, we will be more aware of the rubbish we leave behind for our future generations, ” she highlighted.

The Kajang resident makes it a habit of bringing tiffin carriers and shopping bags whenever she buys food and goes marketing.

“I encourage my colleagues to bring their own reusable containers for their takeaway lunch at work, because it is disheartening to see the rubbish bin in the office pantry filled with disposable plastic containers and polystyrene.

“I make an effort to be a conscious consumer.

“For example, I observe the amount of unnecessary packaging an outlet uses and try not to patronise those that use excessive packaging too often.

“An environmentally conscious retailer will take into consideration the amount of packaging they use and their contribution to the landfill.”

It was her parents who instilled in Cheong the practice of sustainable living.

The ways plastics can be transformed into other things instead of being sent to the landfill after just one use.The ways plastics can be transformed into other things instead of being sent to the landfill after just one use.

“When I was a child, we collected glass bottles to sell them for 10sen each, which when accumulated, was enough for us to buy ice-cream.

“I am more frugal than my siblings, hence I collect cardboard boxes and aluminum cans to be recycled.

“I do join contests frequently and make full use of the recyclable items at home to decorate my entries, ” she said.

She is one of the winners of Sunway Property’s #HowWouldYouReuse challenge.

The online contest was launched in conjunction with Earth Hour as another activity besides switching off non-essential lights at home or in a commercial building.

The objective of this challenge was to encourage families to come together, be creative and to do their part for the environment even when they were staying at home and adjusting to the MCO, said Sunway Property.

Family bonding

For some, crafting is also a way to spend quality time with family.

Yong Kwee Chan creates decorative items using disposable and single-use plastics with her eight-year-old daughter who shares her passion for art and crafts.

“I like making handicrafts. I go online for DIY crafting ideas, ” said the 48-year-old full-time homemaker from Salak South Garden, Selangor.

Aside from making decorative pieces, she has also found practical use for some items such as transforming disposable food packaging into pencil cases.

She said that she learned about recycling when she started volunteering at Tzu Chi Foundation Malaysia about three years ago.

“Before that, I knew nothing about recycling or reusing items.

When sorting out the items that people dropped off at the Tzu Chi recycling centre, she noticed there were many items which could not be recycled.

“Instead of sending those things to the landfill, I take them home to make handicrafts as a way to prolong the life of those items.

Yong avoids disposable and single-use plastics when she gets takeaway food, by bringing her own food container.

Aside from inculcating environmentally friendly habits in her two children, she also leads by example when she helps out in the weekly recycling activity at their school with other parents.

Tzu Chi Foundation Malaysia Taman Desa Recycling Centre coordinator Francis Tan said, “Some of our volunteers craft useful objects from single-use plastic containers, disposable plastic utensils and plastic bottles. It is easy and simple to do.”

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