Rubbish doesn't have to go to the landfill. A bit of creativity will mean a lot of useless material is reused. Foxton's Greenheart Hub uses plastic shopping bags and other soft plastics to turn into usable items. Now a group of passionate designers from Levin and surrounding district has come up with ways to recycle rubbish and provide jobs for people without steady incomes at the same time. Horowhenua Chronicle editor Janine Baalbergen reports.
Refreshed currently makes use of billboard skins, seat belts, discarded bits of leather and packing cases and has turned them into stylish designer bags. Their work is already making a splash overseas.
For Refreshed and their support group the Greenhouse Community it isn't just about recycling. They want to achieve much more.
"It is about much more than just putting a few things into the recycling bin," says David Brewerton.
"While we make lifestyle products from rubbish we also want to be true kaitiaki of our local resources as well as helping people who have fallen on hard times. Those who are going to work for us will get a living wage."
He said Refreshed was launched a year ago by the Greenhouse Community, a group of people passionate about the environment, and their fellow men and women. They also want to make an impact on prevailing consumer culture by producing really good design work while at the same time diverting materials from the landfill.
"Our bags are long lasting, do not come unstitched as there is no stitching and do really well in rain and wind." They currently have three sizes on offer, including a bag suitable for laptops.
They started their project earlier this year with earrings to prove their concept worked well.
"Not only do we have a proven concept for our products, our social enterprise structure also works well, but launching the bags via a Kickstarter campaign is a big step up for us," admits Brewerton
Their Kōwhaiwhai Earrings come in blue, clear, and green. And any packaging they use to ship their products are fully compostable, made in-house. They pride themselves in making useful, even designer wear, from what is perceived as rubbish.
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They did not need to worry about the feasibility of their latest project as the campaign reached its $2,000 target within 48 hours and is still climbing.
"We get the materials free. Orders have come in from around the country and as far as Australia, UK, USA, Germany, Malaysia and Indonesia."
The team is doing all the design work and the actual making of their products themselves, but right now have enough orders to be able to give jobs to other people, an important aspect of their social enterprise philosophy.
"Some people have tough backgrounds which stop them from getting a job, so we can help with that," said Brewerton who has done much of the design work himself and has been teaching others how to make the bags. Brewerton teaches design at Horowhenua College and said Refreshed is already looking at expanding its range with games and wallets.
While this project may seem a bit radical, their next step will be opening up a whole range of possibilities. Their raw products dictate what they can do with them, so is a bit limiting.
"We use materials in their original form and that restricts us a bit. We design according to the material we have on hand, but for next year we are hoping to have advanced enough to be able to buy a shredder and an injection moulder as well as a laser cutter.
"That will allow us to breakdown waste products into little bits and mould them into any shape we want."
Plan is to start a store in a shipping container, placed in the New World carpark in Levin. "We have filed a proposal with the Waste Minimisation Fund to help realise this dream."
Refreshed has a governance committee of six people and gets help from the Greenhouse Community, a motley lot of people from many walks of life who are passionate about sustainability and guardianship.
The group has social workers, engineers, designers, teachers as well as people on a benefit among their number. They often meet on Monday nights.
"About 20-30 show up regularly out of a total of 60," said Brewerton.
"Our new bags are super durable, have an adjustable strap and are water resistant. We have a laptop bag, a shoulder bag and an essentials bag. They can be bought online or with pledges through kickstarter."
For more information go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/refreshed/refreshed-the-rubbish-bag?ref=backerkit or https://www.refreshed.co.nz/