I started selling up cycled plastic as wallets in 2011.
I managed to make five little monster wallets, which to my surprise all sold! No-one had even looked at my hand-stitched cotton canvas wallets ever, but somehow the people that came into my stall were all over these ugly looking Frankenstein wallets. They sold at 5 dollars each, and by the end of the market I couldn't believe anyone had bought any, so i was determined to perfect them and make more.
Since making the first piece of material for the first two years, I immersed my self in the world of 'what can I do with this material?'. I started playing with the amount of layers and variety of colours I could find, to make thicker and more durable material. This led me to prototype A LOT! I made a variety of products that were useful, colourful and very innovative.
In the market after selling the first five ugly wallets, I brought in 20 more wallets, looking more like the one in Figure 2. This time, I spent more time refining the joining method and to decorate the materials with all coloured plastic I could find. To my surprise again, they all sold again!
So that was it! I was set, for life, kind of... I did not really know back then what I was in for, I never thought this garage project was going to become my life project where I get involved my art skills into products at the same time I can tell everyone that yes! Indeed, we can be sustainable!
Me being an Aries, I got quite obsessed and very passionate at creating stuff with this materials. It seemed like the possibilities were endless when thinking about the potential applications. Back then, like most people right now, I did not know the difference between plastics, I was combining coloured plastics that I found and fusing them with heat. The colour contrasts were awesome, and it allowed me to create very appealing materials and products. (Figure 3)
However, something was wrong. Later, I found out that the difference between some plastics could be just as big as cardboard and glass, molecularly speaking. And that the process of combing plastics or making composite materials was not sustainable because the materials lost their recyclability functions.
After 5 years of self directed learning and experimentation I found that I needed some help, some direction that could help me channel all this work. Therefore I decided to study a bachelor of industrial design, which allowed me to expand my knowledge for this project.
At university I not only learned more about the materials I was dealing with, but also the variety of plastics out there and their physical and technical characteristics. This allowed me to understand what I was doing, and to establish certain rules and limitations in the way I was producing my work.
Also, I learned a variety of methods in which I can change the materials, shape and density, to make it suitable for several types of applications. In some of the projects done, I managed to refine an idea of a pannier bag which consisted of soft and hard plastics as well as the rear rack for a bicycle made entirely from milk bottle tops HDPE plastic and soft plastic bag offcuts. These projects closed the circle of knowledge about soft and hard plastics recycling.
I have been very inspired by Dave Hakkens, The person behind the PRECIOUS PLASTIC project that started a few years back in the Netherlands. They have been able to help communities across the globe to set up small recycling facilities to combat hard plastic waste, and to use this to make useful products.
I believe the AORACREO project is very similar, except that it is with soft plastic bags, and it doesn't require complex machinery to start making useful products.
By Cesar Marulanda, founder of AORACREO