6 Ways Creative Malaysians Have Turned Waste Into Wonderful Items

Most times, we dispose of waste in ways that don’t serve the environment. It’s hard to admit, but we often throw an empty plastic bottle or drink can instead of recycling them. Acts like these only reverse the process of sustainability and damage the environment. But all hope is not lost. Maybe you can find inspiration from these Malaysians who have given trash and waste a second life.

#1: co2_karbondioksida by Oscar Lee and Celine Tan

‘Eyes of Muar’ is made of used badminton shuttlecocks. Source: FMT

Tan and Lee were both architects in Kuala Lumpur before opting to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and return to Muar. Celine Tan and her husband Oscar Lee created the co2 karbondioksida art collective in response to the urgent need to raise awareness about the significance of producing less waste for the welfare of the earth.

We were both born and bred in Johor, so we chose to return here to start our freelance art project. – Celine Tan, co2_karbondioksida co-founder[1]

Their first project “Eyes of Muar”, took a year to complete. It was made completely of used badminton shuttlecocks. The time it took to gather all the shuttlecocks and install the piece took them by surprise – but they were elated at the end product.

The duo honed their skills over time, and their most recent art piece, “Last Pride of Tiger,” is a three-meter-tall installation made from waste materials, that was showcased at Zero Waste Malaysia’s Trashpedia premiere at The School in Jaya One last month.

#2: UPcycled Shack by Tressie Yap

Source: UPcycled Shack

UPcycled Shack was founded by Tressie Yap, whose love for green building prompted her to battle pollution in her home state of Sabah, particularly on the rivers and beaches. UPcycled Shack was founded in 2014 to teach rural B40 communities how to upcycle everyday household waste like plastic bottles, plastic bags, and packaging into handmade products and wearables like jewellery and homeware.

Upcycling is becoming increasingly popular. It is steadily gaining importance in terms of its value in waste reduction and virgin material production, tipping the scales toward our shared environmental sustainability goals.

#3: Biji-biji Initiative by William Kong and team

Source: Biji-biji Initiative

The use of plastic damages the environment as they take years to decompose. In the past decade, Malaysia has been gearing toward less plastic consumption. Biji-biji Initiative has been championing the cause of plastic waste since 2013,

Biji-biji Initiative is a social enterprise devoted to inspiring people and sharing social innovations to live a more sustainable life, has joined the mission of promoting sustainability.

One of many initiatives – Beyond Bins, where plastic waste is given newfound value after it is shredded and upcycled into a new product. The initiative provided employment opportunities for the B40 communities and it was a practical way to teach them sustainability principles. To-date, the Biji-biji has converted 22,717 kg of plastic waste into products such as notebooks, coasters, clothespins, customised award plaques, handles, keychains, and flower pots and sold them.

#4: Handmade Eco Soap by Noor Jehan Abu Bakar

Source: TRP

Rather than pouring wasted cooking oil down the drain, one astute Kuantan woman opted to transform the noxious waste into handcrafted soap! Noor Jehan Abu Bakar (MokMeow) used Twitter to share how she transformed 2kg of wasted cooking oil into soap, much to the joy of Malaysians online who were awestruck by the metamorphosis[2].

Noor Jehan has been manufacturing soaps for four years and she became a soap vendor at a cafe in Kuantan two years ago after retiring from her legal practice. The cafe began manufacturing their own soaps to use for general cleanings, such as mopping and wiping tables, because they were concerned about the quantity of waste.

She also reuses PET boxes from food and beverage packaging, as well as single-use plastic containers from pasar malams, as soap moulds, according to the lawyer-turned-environmental activist. As a result, there is no waste!

#5: OiLilin by Nina Alias, Ashaari Rahmat and Redza Shahid

Source: OiLilin

Did you know the cooking oil we use on a daily basis can be used for the greater good? OilLilin turns used cooking oil (from halal-certified restaurants) into scented candles. What’s even better is that all candles are environmentally friendly. 

Launched in 2020, the co-founders knew that the story behind the brand is unexpected.  What started out with the launch of 2 scents, the organisation has 7 different scents to choose from. They also encourage and educate the public on sustainability through their very own candle-making kit! 

We had to educate and change public mindset on how we could upcycle used cooking oil into scented candles, which was not easy. – Redza Shahid[3]

#6: Green Yards by Wen Shin

Source: VulcanPost

What started out as a university project is now a full-fledged business which turns used cooking oil into several products such as candles, homemade soap, cleaning powders and more. 

Green Yards has set up a collection point at TTDI for used cooking oil. In return, they reward a bar of Green Yard’s handmade soap to those who contribute a minimum of 5kg of used cooking oil.

We collect used cooking oil from households and restaurants. Then, we use micron filters with pores smaller than a strand of hair to remove sediments and impurities. – Wen Shin, co-founder of Green Yards[4]

Keep The Fire Burning

These Malaysians have brought the work of art to a different level that we can all appreciate. But we don’t all have to be talented artists to be environmental saviours. There are subtle ways on how we can each do our part while placing sustainability at our forefront by simply practising the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  While doing so, be sure to support the businesses of these gifted Malaysians in pursuit of their impactful actions! 

Explore our sources:

  1. Free Malaysia Today. (2022). Couple turns trash into meaningful art. Link
  2. Kirat Kaur. (2021). Kuantan Woman Wows Malaysians By Turning Nasty Used Cooking Oil Into Handmade Eco Soap. The Rakyat Post. Link
  3. Vulcant Post. (2020). This M’sian Startup Has Made A Business Out Of Turning Used Oil Into Scented Candles. Link
  4. Vulcan Post. (2017). This M’sian Duo Transforms Nasty Used Cooking Oil Into Fresh-Scented Handmade Soaps. Link

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