Anyone who’s been to any ‘developing’ country in Southeast Asia will agree that recycling of any kind isn’t widely, if at all, practiced. The extent of recycling in this part of the world might consist of someone painstakingly carrying bundles of tightly crushed cardboard boxes on their back or wheeling around a makeshift buggy collecting plastic containers.
Heaps of rubbish can often be seen in destitute-looking alleys and along roads, visibly filling up ditches at a worrisome rate; otherwise pristine beaches are often littered with random objects swept in by crashing waves. It’s not rare to see an empty plastic bag or soda can being tossed out of a window to be whisked away by the wind, landing just about anywhere, adding to the already questionable state of affairs.
Mindlessly discarding rubbish (recyclable or not) might be due to lack of information, education, infrastructure and/or resources but for whatever reason, it’s quite shocking/disturbing for foreigners from more environmentally-conscious/developed countries to see.
I was also taken aback a few times throughout my travels in Southeast Asia. But in countries where recycling (and garbage) bins are non-existent
forcing me to sometimes bring back my empty plastic bottles to recycle back home, I did come across a few resourceful recycling ideas that appealed to my creative side.
In the well-preserved historical town of Luang Prabang in conservative Laos, this whimsical hanging apparatus made of several plastic water bottles was unconventional and unexpected. Its space-age design with a retro twist could easily fit on the set of an Austin Powers movie – so groovy!
This low-cost, environmentally-friendly version is not new in the design world. Sputnik was the name of the first satellite ever orbited by the Soviet Union in 1957. The launch then inspired a slew of interior design objects including Sputnik light fixtures such as these three models (with a much higher price tag).
Again while walking around Luang Prabang, I came across these unique planters made from large plastic soda bottles (recognize the bottom used for the paws?). Painted white with simple yet very expressive kitty-cat faces, these planters are just too meowsome!
Check out Salty Canary to learn how to make your own!
These googley-eyed fish I spotted floating mid-air on Koh Jhum island in Thailand were my favorite! They were made by using the cheapest water bottles found in Thailand and then simply cutting them into shape, the bottle caps were used for the eyes. Genius!
Talk about optimum recycling! I saw these double-duty (recycling + organic growing) creations on the island of Don Det in Laos. Once again, plain plastic soda bottles were recycled as planters. This might just be the most coiffed tree I’ve ever seen!
Hanging like a lonely drifter along the boardwalk in Sihanoukville (Cambodia), I spotted this brilliant *ahem* idea for a light fixture. Who knew a coconut and a glass bottle would make such an awesome design?! I suggest combining different colored glass bottles and hanging them at different heights to create a more visually-interesting and unique fixture. (Adding twisted manila rope to camouflage the otherwise unattractive wire is also a great idea!).
As someone who’s keen on giving discarded objects a second life, I was enamored with all of these! I realize these ‘developing’ countries have a lot of issues to deal with but I hope recycling will soon be a norm. Until then, it was endearing to see these small yet meaningful efforts to reuse and recycle in such creative and resourceful ways.
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Have you been to countries where waste seems out of control? Do you have any creative recycling ideas of your own to share?