The Day We Upcycled Plastic


If there is anything I detest looking at more than President Donald Trump, it has got to be Plastic Waste! Maybe this sudden awareness and clarity stems from the global agenda which is pushing for single-use plastic bans or videos that are advocating the damage we are doing to marine life or the institutions that are standing up and taking action on this issue.

I'm so happy I am associated with one such institution that dedicated an entire day for designing global solutions to end plastic waste. My alma mater The Do School partnered with the Plastic Pollution Coalition for DO Day on October 18 and introduced their innovation process to the rest of the world.

Alumni and outsiders planned and put together activities to think and innovate on Plastic Waste in India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Philippines, Germany, etc etc. I was lucky to have partnered with one of my best friends Waqar J Khan (who happens to be a fashion designer) as well as gained access to a skilled fishermen community of Karachi to think about plastic waste.

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We spent two days prior to Oct 18 discussing this topic with the women, men and children of the area. We found out that the marine life was affected most by plastic. Dead turtles, whales and smaller fish often washed up on the shore entangled in plastic. Sometimes their own fishnets got lost and they made dives to retrieve it in order to not cause harm to the environment.

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A wonderful organisation by the name of Olive Ridley had already been working on this problem with the community. Their lead Usman Iqbal had played a big role in introducing us to the Abdul Rehman goth and in gaining their trust. They designed beautiful bracelets with the wives of fishermen that were sold all around the world. It had been a few years since they had innovated beyond this bracelet.

Waqar and I sat down and looked at the different fishnets and saw a great opportunity to create necklaces, chokers, anklets, earrings, embroidered jackets, appliques, key chains with this washed up fishnet.

We picked up the cleanest pieces of the fishnet and mentored the women in coming up colour combination, braiding techniques, lengths and sizes. Some would braid the necklace using their feet, and giggle when we tried to take a shot of the process. They had stories, jokes and little tidbits to share about each other but could not get photographed at all. Strict baloch code made it impossible for us to draw a link between the jewellery and the woman who made it.

Their daughters were the best audience, giving their mothers help and advice as they went along innovating. Many of them attended school but had plans to drop out after fifth grade. We took this opportunity to tell them about the global plastic problem and ask them how they think this can stop. The young girls also told us how plastic waste made the beach on which they played every day really ugly and hard to walk through.

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We came back with a wonderful line of neck pieces and earrings that we are retailing already and showcasing internationally. If you'd like to support the community and buy one of their beautiful pieces, I'm happy to share prices with you.

Jaya Rajwani