KOTA KINABALU: Over the past few years, Felicity Eku has not bought any clothing.
Instead, she takes clothes from family members and relatives, and transforms her wardrobe using her sewing skills.
The recycling advocate has also been making homemade skincare products such as face scrubs or masks to reduce the impact of microplastics.
She opts to go to tamu (weekly market) instead of supermarkets to buy fresh vegetables and avoids produce individually wrapped in plastic.
Wanting to create a bigger movement towards zero waste, the 26-year-old Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) graduate teamed up with fellow enthusiast Dane Kovacs, an Australian residing in Sabah who is locally known through his Instagram handle as @Orang Putih Kita, to start the tanpa.sampah initiative last year.
“Since I was young, my family has practised things like being mindful of their waste, and I always knew I wanted to do something.
“The lifestyle change (not buying clothes and avoiding plastic use) was what I can do personally, but when I met Kovacs, we talked about how we can seriously make a change.
“Tanpa.sampah became active and accessible via Instagram and in April this year, we held a one-day workshop at Kolej Vokasional Keningau, where I taught a group of more than 20 teachers and students how to turn banners into tote bags,” she said when met.
Felicity said she felt strongly about this as banners are usually a single use item.
“Previously, we have gotten the banners from those who donated to us, especially schools, and we approached the Keningau college to do the workshop as it has access to sewing machines.
“But I would rather see people and businesses use banners that are long lasting, which means leaving the date, venue and other details empty so they can re-use it for different occasions,” said the freelancer.
Felicity said the next workshop they are planning to hold is on waste composting sometime in July, near the Kayu Madang landfill here.
She said ideally, tanpa.sampah wants to promote a circular economy (restorative industrial system where waste does not exist) in Sabah, encouraging locals to do eco-friendly businesses.
“We have been approaching some homestays in Ranau, encouraging them to use water dispensers instead of bottled mineral water, and buying soap and shampoo in bulk instead of individually packed ones.
“We also took note that Sabah has a lot of coconut and banana resources, where banana leaves are good alternative wrappers, while brooms and toilet brushes can be made from coconut husks,” she said, adding that changing the mindset of such businesses takes time and is still in progress.
While tanpa.sampah engaged partners from other initiatives like Trash Hero, Felicity admitted it was hard to promote "no plastic usage" coming from a small group of people unless there was government or private support.
“Maybe after we are able to collect data on how eco-friendly practices can save their operational costs, we will have something more valid to present to the government or any private entity to support our cause