We all know about the 3 Rs – reduce, reuse & recycle. When it comes to plastic bags, though, the last option is generally not a viable one. First of all, there is virtually no market for recycled plastic bags. Glass, paper and metal are all commonly recycled, while plastic bags are literally left to blow in the wind. We all need to take personal responsibility and place our focus on reducing and reusing to combat the bag issue.
Reducing is easy; we can all minimize our personal consumption simply by making reusable cloth bags part of our regular shopping habit. Reusing, on the other hand, sometimes takes an artistic eye and some innovative thinking to come up with a solution. It’s a good thing that there are some clever, crafty people out there willing to take on that challenge on our behalf.
Melanie Casavant, the creative force behind Okzoo is an artist and jewelry designer who is doing some amazing things with fused plastic bags in her Montreal studio. Six years ago, she was concerned by the ever-growing pile of plastic shopping bags collecting in her kitchen. Recognizing the opportunity to make something beautiful of a commonplace and under-explored material, Melanie was inspired to experiment with fused plastic. Once she discovered the perfect combination of heat and pressure on the plastic, the possibilities were endless.
Today, Melanie sells her amazing collection of art and jewelry, lovingly created from donated plastic bags, through her shop. It seems fitting that the pieces are inspired by nature, as their creation goes to protecting the fragile eco-systems that house the plants, animals, insects and birds depicted in Melanie’s designs.
Ultra-lightweight and ultra-cool, the above necklace made from fused plastic and glass beads is just one of the fresh and eye-catching items to be found in the Ozkoo shop.
Another talented “green” artisan working with fused plastic is Brooke of So She Sews. Brooke creates adorable coin purses, coffee sleeves, purses and wallets from plastic retail bags, dry cleaning bags and fabric scraps. The plastic-fusing process creates a finished product that is both sturdy and pliable. Brooke calls it an “eco-textile”. I call it eco-fabulous and I’m sure you’ll agree!
Make a statement and let this little coin purse tell the world that you give a “hoot” about the environment. Each wallet is made by hand, one-of-a-kind and adorable. And, as with all of the recycled pieces in Brooke’s shop, perfectly affordable. (By the way, while you’re browsing Brooke’s shop, be sure to check out her profile page for details on her commitment to reusing salvaged materials and reducing packaging waste. All of the packages from the So She Sews shop are shipped with as much thought and consideration for the environment as the items inside them. I like that!)
Plastic grocery bags didn’t come into widespread use until the mid-1970s. At the time, they were seen as an innovation. Being cheap, lightweight and relatively durable, they quickly became consumer’s preferred choice over paper bags. Since then, they have taken over our garbage dumps where they account for a hefty percentage of the contents. Outside the landfills, plastic bags have become a scourge on our streets and in our natural environment. In China, they have coined the term “white pollution” to refer to the drifts of plastic bags on the streets and in South Africa the white plastic caught in the trees is often mistaken for snow.
Unfortunately, the problem is more than an esthetic one. In our oceans, floating sunlight-blocking plastic is killing coral reefs and vegetation. Close to 300 ocean-dwelling species are being adversely affected by the problem, too. Sea turtles, for example, mistake the bags for jellyfish and frequently die after ingesting them. Sadly, other animals and birds simply become entangled in the bags and drown.
Read more about how discarded bags are trashing our oceans at Mindfully.org.