BY: SAMANTHA TAPP
Think about how many plastic bags you throw out on a monthly basis. Now, try to imagine how many plastic bags are thrown out every month in your city. Imagine these bags being used to improve environmental awareness rather than increasing waste, or using these bags to provide income to underprivileged, local families instead of tossing them out.
This idea is now a reality. Rania Rafie and Yara Yassin, two Egyptian product designers, discovered the huge amount of plastic waste Egypt was producing annually and took the matter into their own hands. This lead to the creation of their company, Up-fuse.
Located in Cairo, Egypt, Up-fuse is an Egyptian social startup that promotes an eco-friendly lifestyle by designing and producing backpacks, tote bags and accessories made from upcycled plastic bags. The products are handmade by local Egyptian artisans using the plastic bags and other locally produced materials. As if supporting local talent and the environment wasn’t enough, the designers also ensure every bag is one of a kind.
The idea for Up-fuse came from the girls’ interest in sustainability. On their site it reads: “We are working on encouraging the use of eco-friendly and upcycled materials, merging between sustainable products, genuine design and social responsibility.”
Upcycling the bags is a process of transforming discarded bags into a reusable item. Unlike recycling, upcycling improves the quality of the materials and it uses less energy and electricity. The bag-making process begins with the design stage, followed by the plastic bags being collected, cleaned and upcycled into coloured material, and finally the bags are sewed together with the final touches by a local leather-bags sewer, A’m Sobhi.
Egypt alone produces 3 million tonnes of plastic waste per year. As at attempt to decrease this environmental mark, each Up-fuse bag upcycles 30 plastic bags and also generates income to 5 underprivileged families due to the companies’ partnering with a local Cairo NGO.
The NGO’s focus is to provide garbage collectors with a higher standard of living. Up-fuse focuses on educating students who are not enrolled in full-time education because of financial difficulties. Up-fuse teaches the upcycling technique in hopes of encouraging the students to finish their education while earning an income to support themselves. Together, Up-fuse and the NGO work together to promote healthy work conditions and improved education.
According to their website, one trillion plastic bags are produced annually worldwide and while you may use a plastic bag for merely minutes, they take 1000 years to decompose. Check out their site to see more about how these girls are doing their part to fight against plastic bag pollution.