Plastic upcycling is becoming very popular in Malaysia.
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Reusing scrap trash material is also known as upcycling, which has been enjoying a steady increase in popularity as the community becomes more aware of plastic waste and trash.
Recently, Malaysian TikToker Ken Cheng showed us how he reused the many types of plastic trash he has lying around at home to create a whole working umbrella, which garnered admiration both on and off the platform.
He used plenty of cleaned and flattened Gardenia bread bags, Twisties chips bags, Ramly freezer bags, and instant noodle packets, cut them into a square size, and taped them together.
Then, he patched the plastic over an old umbrella, ending up with a colourful umbrella made up of all our favourite Malaysian food packaging.
Once he is done, he shows off the final product, which can open and close smoothly just like a regular umbrella.
It can shelter you from the sun and rain too.Ken Cheng on TikTok
Netizens are in love
His upcycling project garnered plenty of love as people admired his creativity and workmanship.
Even a teacher commented that she was happy to have come across his video so she can explain the concept of the 5R’s– Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle– to her students.
You can watch the full video for Ken’s process here:
But does it work?
Food bags such as the plastic bags used for bread and instant noodles are made of #4 low density polyethylene (LDPE). Those who recycle may know that these kinds of soft plastic bags are not commonly accepted as recyclable material in Malaysia, leading to a bit of a headache for the environmentally-conscious.
As such, many creative people have come up with solutions to reuse these soft disposable plastics in various ways.
However, while the plastic umbrella may work alright as shelter for rain, LDPE is not UV-resistant.
In fact, LDPE breaks down under the sun even faster than most plastics, and releases significant amounts of two greenhouse gases: methane and ethylene, when exposed to consistent sunlight.
As such, while single-use plastic is technically ‘reused’, it may end up having an unexpected effect on the environment as well.
Different plastics have different molecular structures and reactions to the environment like heat and UV exposure. This is why some plastics are hard and solid while others are soft and turn brittle after some time.
If you do want to reuse and recycle plastics, it is best to find out what kind of plastics is suitable for the (new) job you want it to do.
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.