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From Trash to Treasure

Four local communities weave environmental sustainability into their crafts, upcycling MILO stick packs to divert plastic waste away from landfills U
Four local communities weave environmental sustainability into their crafts, upcycling MILO stick packs to divert plastic waste away from landfills

UPcycled Shack founder Tressie Yap (left) shares her upcycling skills with B40 women in her home state of Sabah.

Upcycling is on the uptrend. Not only is the more creative, younger sister of recycling surging in popularity especially as a passion project during the Movement Control Order, it is steadily gaining importance in terms of its value in waste reduction and reduction in virgin material production, tipping the scale towards our shared environmental sustainability goals.

Turning waste into a material or product that is of a higher quality in a creative way, upcycling gives otherwise useless or unwanted products a new lease of life and purpose. While the concept may be new to the average Malaysian, local communities have begun embracing upcycling in their effort to not only protect the environment but also improve the livelihood of members of their own community through income generating upcycling activities.

Four such communities have recently joined forces with MILO to tackle the problem of plastic waste by upcycling MILO stick packs and sachets that are being collected through MILO Stik Pek X-Change. This initiative is part of MILO Sayang Bumi, a pledge that MILO has taken to embrace sustainable practices in improving its products and processes for the good of the planet.

One of the impact goals of MILO Sayang Bumi is reducing plastic waste in landfills and waterways, which are major sites of plastic pollution. Working together with the upcycling communities will add to efforts to achieve this goal, on top of measures to ensure that the rest of collected plastic packaging is recycled or disposed of responsibly.

However, the impact of this collaboration stretches beyond its environmental as well as socioeconomic benefits. Upcycling the MILO stick packs and sachets into practical handicrafts also contributes towards the conservation, appreciation and pride of homegrown arts and crafts.

Follow the creative process behind the upcycling initiatives of these four local communities and how the MILO Stik Pek X-Change partnership is enabling them to play their role more significantly on each of their own sustainability journey.

UPcycled Shack
UPcycled Shack is the brainchild of architect Tressie Yap, whose passion for green architecture led her on a path to fighting environmental pollution especially in the rivers and beaches of her home state of Sabah. Established in 2014, UPcycled Shack empowers rural B40 communities with upcycling skills to turn everyday household waste such as plastic bottles, plastic bags and packaging into artisanal crafts and wearables, including jewelry and homewear.

Over and above the upcycled handicrafts, the UPcycled Shack team of 70 artisans and seamstresses also contributed to the COVID-19 response by producing personal protective equipment (PPE) and reusable 3-ply masks for our frontliners.

MILO fans will be delighted to know among the daily items that are reused for upycling, MILO packs and sachets are favoured for accessories such as clutches, laptop cases, phone cases, placemats and coasters.

The partnership with MILO provides UPcycled Shack a national platform to bring greater awareness on harnessing the power of, in Yap’s own words, “turning trash into treasure” for the good of the planet.

Inspirasi Kreatif
Saharuddin Basri and Norsidah Masri, the husband and wife team behind Inspirasi Kreatif initiated the community outfit in 2009 as a supplier for schools, sourcing goods that were related to the subject of Kemahiran Hidup (now called Reka Bentuk dan Teknologi), such as gardening tools, sewing kits and cooking utensils. 
 
When COVID-19 impacted the community in 2020, they shifted their focus to helping those affected, including a group of B40 women who were micro-loan beneficiaries under the non-governmental organisation Women of Will, by providing the tools and skills to upcycle everyday household waste, from plastic rice bags to cloths, into practical handicrafts.

Egg basket made of MILO packaging
Woven bags, egg baskets and water bottle bags are among the more popular upcycled handicrafts produced by Inspirasi Kreatif which, depending on the scale of the project, require a team of up to 20 artisans to make. Each product is uniquely designed using durable materials, ideal for everyday use.

Crafting upcycling solutions that last, Inspirasi Kreatif hopes to showcase to the wider community the benefits of upcycling on the environment and how upcycling should not be a novelty but a norm.

Helping Hands Penan
Social enterprise Helping Hands Penan is on a mission to empower the Penan community in Sarawak through the art of weaving since 2007. Penan women are naturally skillful weavers. Through various projects, their inherent weaving skills are being put to good use to help generate income for their family. Funds raised from the sale of the woven crafts are also channeled towards protecting the welfare and safeguarding the education of Penan children and youth.

The skillful Penan women weavers of Helping Hands Penan.

The initial stage of the collaboration with MILO posed a creative challenge to the Penan weavers. While they are accustomed to weaving bags from rattan and PVC strips, weaving used plastic packaging is a completely different experience, which they quickly overcame with some training. A team of 6 weavers are now undertaking the upcycling project, transforming used MILO stick packs and sachets into practical tote bags and coasters.

Efforts to do good for the community and for the planet go hand-in-hand at Helping Hands Penan. One can look forward to more upcycling endeavours for this social enterprise in the future.

Nerine Ong
As bringing your own grocery bag is now the new norm, why not use an upcycled one made by the creative hands of Nerine Ong? A remisier by trade, Ong began her sustainability journey 2 years ago by upcycling food packaging to help her local community create practical handicrafts such as baskets and bags.

Having honed her handicraft skills on her own for the past 20 years, she believes she can create a bigger impact by sharing her knowledge with the community.

Nerine Ong’s grocery baskets using upcycled MILO packaging. 

The MILO soft packs are one of the most commonly used items in her designs. Through this partnership, she is flexing her creative muscle even further by exploring new ways to incorporate the various MILO stick packs and sachets in different sizes into her grocery basket designs.

To Ong, upcycling is an exercise in self-expression and a good way to nurture creativity in the community while also doing good for the environment. Every upcycled handicraft is unique because it is handmade by an individual in the community based on their own creativity.

To support these four local upcycling communities and do your bit for the environment through MILO Stik Pek X-Change, go to: https://milo.com.my/stikpekxchange. As many as 500 lucky participants will each stand a chance to own one of the upcycled handicrafts. Campaign ends 31 May 2021.