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Creative Upcycling: FunkyJunk Recycled

Reclaimed plastic bags find new life as home and fashion accessories

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Creative Upcycling: FunkyJunk Recycled

Discarded plastic bags morph into colorful floor cushions at the hands of FunkyJunk Recycled.

Photo courtesy of FunkyJunk Recycled

FunkyJunk Recycled is a story of both environmental and social success, the type of story you love to hear. The company’s founders wanted to do their part in protecting the future of the environment in developing countries, places where waste collection is not the routine occurrence to which we Westerners are accustomed. The result of that determination is FunkyJunk Recycled, a company that takes the plastic bags that would otherwise be litter and gives them, and the environment in which they were found, a brighter tomorrow.

Upcycle It

Though recycling plastic bags is thankfully gaining in popularity here in the states, that’s not so much the case in many developing countries. In such areas, discarded plastic bags litter streets and fields, clog water systems and choke livestock. These items we here increasingly tend to reuse or return to our supermarkets so they can be recycled into new plastic bags are a very real threat to these already challenged environments.

Enter FunkyJunk Recycled. The company was started by Carpe Diem Travel, a non-profit tour operator that always has worked to provide benefits to the places it visits. Carpe Diem’s most popular destination is Cambodia and the minds behind the company wanted to do something about the threat they witnessed there as a result of the discarded bags. They also believed there must be a greater purpose for these items that begin their lives as utilitarian goods. Why, they thought, shouldn’t they be turned into something that’s not merely useful, but beautiful as well?

Colorful Results

The resultant product line here includes placemats, baskets and floor cushions, as well as fashion accessories like tote bags and hats. The found bags offer a rainbow of color options and the material itself is both strong and washable. As elements such as age and sunshine will alter each bag’s original color, each piece that comes from the company is truly one-of-a-kind.

The products are smart as well. Take, for example, the two versions of floor cushions. The first is not only woven with recycled bags but filled with them as well, while the second comes unfilled and with a zipper, the idea being one can store extra blankets or duvets inside.

The company offers an established range of products but FunkyJunk also will make designs to order, a great feature if you’re looking to outfit a home with a truly unique piece of sustainable design. Currently, in the U.S., the products can be purchased (both wholesale and retail) through Hipcycle.

The Benefits

There are a lot of benefits that come from these products, not the least of which is the obvious fact that you’re going with a product made entirely of recycled materials. In fact, they aren’t simply kind to the environment, they’re kind to those who work to make them as well.

First, of course, there is the fact that by producing these products for home and fashion, FunkyJunk Recycled is diverting countless plastic bags from landfills. Then there are the beneficial results of making something with this material: the products are durable, flexible, dirt proof, and water resistant, not to mention colorful and stylish.

Then there is the fact the products are made in right in Cambodia, so the company not only provides jobs, but works to ensure the men and women who help them in bringing their designs to life are paid a fair living wage for their work. It also provides training and community benefits for its local producers.

These colorful products give back, provide employment opportunities where they are badly needed and offer a brighter future for areas in need. FunkyJunk Recycled is a fine example of sustainable design in action.

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