Well, I survived my first quarter as a student again. I don’t have official grades, yet, but everything went pretty well, so I’m confident. And now I get three whole weeks off! I have great plans for cleaning up and cleaning out and crafting and so on. There are holiday presents for me to make! Hopefully, I will also have the time to post about things here. The first thing I’m going to post, though, is a project I did for my environmental science class. One of the professor’s big focuses for this class was to take what we learned out into the world, so a big part of our grade was a service learning project. I was not thrilled at first (I’ve never been a good activist type), but it turns out that we could do something a little more personal and grass routes…and even fun! I wanted to do something fun for my friends and family, and since most of us are crafters of some sort or another, I decided to do an Upcycled Craft Party. We did three write-ups for the project (and I also did a Facebook invitation), but I am only going to post my final one. Here it is, as turned in (with a few notes of friends’ “names” that are known here). Bear with me, it starts a little science-y, but there are pictures and links to projects!
Upcycled Craft Party – Completed Project
For my service learning project, I chose to host a craft party featuring projects that use unconventional materials (i.e. trash / recyclables) and upcycle them into pretty and usable items. I chose this subject partly because I am a crafter, as are many of my friends. I thought something that related to our interests and was fun would be a better vehicle for learning. I also chose this project because, while my friends are a pretty environmentally aware group, I don’t think many of us had applied that thinking to our crafting. Not that any of us are particularly wasteful in the area, but I was pretty sure that our thinking and knowledge had not extended as far into the cycle of materials as it could.
At this point in time, recycling is automatic for most people in our part of the country. Facilities may not take all of the materials that we wish they would, and receptacles may be harder to find than ideal, but the practice is fairly widespread. Still, a lot of people don’t realize just how many resources are still being used to make recyclable products and what percentage of those products is actually being recycled. For example, 311 million tons of plastic was produced globally in 2014, while only 7.7 million tons had been recycled the year before. In the US, only 9.5% of the plastic generated nationally in 2014 was recycled. Over three-quarters went to landfills. Every year in the US, 2.4 million tons of PET plastic is discarded, more than a quarter of which is water bottles. PET water / soda bottles do have one of the better recycling rates among plastics, though approximately 20-30% can’t be said to be a good rate. Americans also use around 102.1 billion plastic bags per year. On the other hand, the recovery rate of newspaper is currently around 72%. Recycling these materials saves both resources and energy. Recycling one ton of plastic saves from 1000 to 2000 gallons of gasoline and reduces energy requirements by 66%. Recycling one ton of paper saves 165 gallons of gasoline and reduces energy requirements by 60%. Further, recycling paper saves approximately seventeen mature trees which will then continue to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. As we’ve discussed, release of CO2 is the primary cause for climate change and heavily associated with creation of new materials from natural resources.
One stream of waste that many people don’t think about is textile waste. The textile and clothing industry is considered one of the most polluting industries. The manufacture of textiles uses large volumes of chemicals and water; thus, wastewater treatment is very important in the industry to avoid polluting local water resources. There are a number of chemical, mechanical, and biological methods being used, many of which return the treated water to the manufacturing process. There is also a great deal of fiber waste in both the manufacturing process and in the textile supply chain, mostly as unwanted clothes in the supply chain. Some of the fiber waste is recoverable; natural fibers can be used as a source for bio-based products. There is even the potential to recover sugars as monosaccharides from waste cellulosic fibers (e.g. cotton, linen, rayon, and viscose). The fact that fashion has come to have a very quick cycle is part of why the textile industry has such a high rate of resource consumption and waste generation. However, recently, there has also been a trend of fashion consumers who are more interested in alternative ways of managing their textile waste. Most people dispose of or donate their unwanted clothing, but fashion consumers are now also participating in efforts to resell, swap, or take back their clothes, sometimes with the help of clothing companies. For example, as part of their company sustainability strategy, H&M clothing stores collect unwanted garments for recycling. On another encouraging note, at least one resource in the textile industry may be having a positive environmental impact. The production of silk requires mulberry trees. The trees must be grown without pesticides for silkworms to feed on them, and mulberry trees have been shown to have a high capacity of carbon mitigation. The research is still in progress, and there are likely other offsetting factors like transport, fertilization, or water use, but it is possible that sericulture’s carbon footprint may come out on the positive side. Silk production also has very little waste fiber, as even lower quality fibers can be used in a number of applications.
Crafters, depending on the craft, are heavy consumers of textiles at the individual scale. (Some crafters, of course, don’t use textiles but do use other resources.) They can also be a mitigating factor in textile waste. They can affect the manufacturing side through what products they choose to buy and in how they use their materials. I have one friend who got interested in sewing daily wear garments in order to limit her personal textile waste (Meris was not able to attend the party but see her blog at https://fabricalchemist.com/). It is very encouraging to me that silk may be a low impact fiber because it is very popular among knitters, especially for making lace shawls. The ability to craft, of course, can also be useful in mitigating other waste streams as well. In this case, I wanted to harness the power of crafters to transform the materials I highlighted above: plastic bottles, plastic bags, and newspapers.
Results (aka The Party)
I invited approximately twenty people to the party and had nine attendees. Sadly, no one took the option to participate virtually. I also had only one person bring any materials for the craft swap, and those ended up in my collection! Not everybody brought materials, but between what I had collected and what people did bring, we had plenty to keep us going. I also had plenty to recycle at the end of the night. It was interesting to see what people brought. I hadn’t managed to collect much newspaper, but one friend (FlowerFriend) was able to bring a large stack. She made a basket out of some of the newspaper she brought. My mother brought newspapers and magazines. She made a tiny bowl out of the latter, and her colorful Sweet Adelines magazines were also very popular source material for the people making paper beads. I had one friend (VetFriend) bring plastic bags, on which she had done a little pre-party work to turn them into “plarn” (plastic yarn). She had underestimated the amount she would need for her crocheted plarn tote bag, but luckily my mother had also brought plastic bags and I had a few on hand, though that too was not an item of which I hadn’t managed to amass much. What I did have a good quantity of was plastic soda bottles. Lucky for me, not only was that the material for my main project (pencil cases), but another friend (GameFriend) used some to make some very pretty flowers. One friend (BookFriend) brought her standby project, little tiny origami cranes that she makes from colorful paper scraps. My sister also worked on a project that she already had, a quilt made from t-shirts (and onesies) that my niece has outgrown but we all loved dearly and hold many memories. Everything was so fun that even after the party was over and people left, my sister and I each had to make one more thing. She made a couple of the soda bottle flowers, and I made a newspaper basket.
As I said, my friends and family are fairly good about their resource use and recycling, but pretty much none of them had ever done an upcycled project before. There was a good deal of surprise at how sophisticated some of the projects could be. Also, everyone seemed pretty excited by not just the projects but by the concept of transforming something as a method of reuse instead of just recycling. We talked about resource use and waste generation in general terms, and as people left I gave them a goodbye with a reminder to “reduce, reuse, recycle – in that order!” In retrospect, though, I wish that I’d introduced some of the actual numbers that I reported above. We were all having some much fun, that it just didn’t happen. I know I got people thinking, but I think the numbers would have made a bigger impact. Some of my friends are pretty into in data. Based on the differences in the things that people brought, it might also have been interesting to have people come up with their own projects based on the materials that they had on hand. Altogether, though, I think the party succeeded in spreading a little knowledge and a little more thinking about resource use in a fun way.
“Plastic Recycling Facts and Figures.” LeBlanc, Rick. The Balance. Updated June 2017. Accessed November 3, 2017. (https://www.thebalance.com/plastic-recycling-facts-and-figures-2877886)
“Brazilian silk production: economic and sustainability aspects.” Giacomin, Alessandra Maria; Garcia Jr., João Berdu; Zonatti, Welton Fernando; Silva-Santos, Marcia Cristina; Laktim, Mariana Costa; Baruque-Ramos, Julia. Procedia Engineering 200: 89–95. 2017. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.proeng.2017.07.014)
“H&M Group > Sustainability > Get Involved.” H&M Group. Accessed November 28, 2017. (http://about.hm.com/en/sustainability/get-involved.html)
“Recovery of Old Newspapers/Mechanical Papers.” Paper Recycles. Accessed November 3, 2017. (http://www.paperrecycles.org/statistics/recovery-of-old-newspapers-mechanical-papers)
“Recent Trends in Sustainable Textile Waste Recycling Methods: Current Situation and Future Prospects.” Pensupa, Nattha; Leu, Shao-Yuan; Hu, Yunzi; Du, Chenyu; Liu, Hao; Jing, Houde; Wang, Huaimin; Lin, Carol Sze Ki. Topics in Current Chemistry 375: 76. October 2017. (https://doi.org/10.1007/s41061-017-0165-0)
“Recycling Facts.” Recyclingbin.com. Accessed November 3, 2017. (http://www.recyclingbin.com/Recycling-Facts)
“Review: Treatment and reuse of wastewater from the textile wet-processing industry: Review of emerging technologies.” Vandevivere, Philippe C.; Bianchi, Roberto; Verstraete. Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology 72: 289-302. August 1998. (DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-4660(199808)72:4<289::AID-JCTB905>3.0.CO;2-#)
“Fashion interest as a driver for consumer textile waste management: reuse, recycle or disposal.” Weber, S., Lynes, J.; Young, S. B. International Journal of Consumer Studies 41: 207–215. March 2017. (doi:10.1111/ijcs.12328)
Links to Projects
Coiled Magazine Page Round Coasters – Johnnie Collier @ Saved by Love Creations (http://savedbylovecreations.com/2011/09/coiled-magazine-page-round-coasters.html)
Basket From Coiled Magazines (and a bunch of other ideas!) – Neecey @ AllWomens Talk (http://diy.allwomenstalk.com/crafty-ways-to-use-old-magazines/13/?utm_campaign=PostSharing&utm_medium=Image&utm_source=pinterest)
How To Make a Magazine Basket – Jon @ Dump A Day (http://www.dumpaday.com/genius-ideas-2/simple-ideas-that-are-borderline-crafty-34-pics-3/attachment/how-to-make-a-magazine-basket/)
I Make: Magazine Boxes – Abstract Octopus (https://abstractoctopus.wordpress.com/2009/09/07/i-make-magazine-boxes/#more-155)
Plastic Bag Yarn – Gooseflesh (http://hellejorgensen.typepad.com/gooseflesh/2007/02/plastic_bag_yar.html)
Make a Basket Out of Plastic Bags – Instructables (http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-basket-out-of-plastic-bags/)
Turn Plastic Bags Into a Recycled Tote – Daniel Castro and Greg P. Gleason @ BuzzFeed (https://www.buzzfeed.com/danielcastro/turn-plastic-sacks-into-a-recycled-tote?utm_term=.ioVwpxJ0a#.wrkxPn60e)
Plastic Bottle and Crochet Totes – I can’t actually read the website, but the pictures are pretty good (http://www.liveinternet.ru/users/helen1/post321383888/)
DIY Plastic Bottle Napkin Ring – Fab DIY (http://www.fabdiy.com/diy-plastic-bottle-napkin-ring/)
Upcycled Soda Bottle Pencil Case – Doodlecraft (http://www.doodlecraftblog.com/2013/08/upcycled-soda-bottle-pencil-case.html?utm_source=bp_recent&utm-medium=gadget&utm_campaign=bp_recent#)