Consumer Pulse
- Creative
thinking is the
key to
upcycling
Lahini Rajapakse & Melissa Carvalho


Recently, upcycling has become very popular throughout various industries in Sri Lanka. A number of organisations have initiated programs in an attempt to transform the country into an eco-friendly environment. One example is the Colombo Flea Market that believes in the concept of ‘one man's trash is another man's treasure’ and people are encouraged to sell unwanted used items. The purpose of the market is to re-use products so as to reduce waste and landfill, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Aside from the environmental impact, up-cycling has also generated new opportunities in employment by empowering many to get creative and create fashion out of unwanted items. Rice and Carry, a social enterprise founded in Sri Lanka in 2012, have been creating a range of handmade bags from polythene and jute, previously used for storing rice and legumes. This not only encourages entrepreneurism, but also empowers many women in rural areas to be able to earn a living using the low cost raw materials around them.
Lonali Rodrigo, the founder of House of Lonali, uses her creativity to turn factory rejects into fashionable clothing items, creating dresses out of shirts and using only upcycled fabrics that would otherwise be destined for landfill. All the garments and shoes are handmade by Sri Lankan artisans to provide a fair income and help to preserve and develop skills. Lonali partners with a group in Jaffna that she met through the Academy of Design’s fashion line, Island Craft. She also works with a Gampaha village for handlooms, the nonprofit organization Women in Need and with women who live around the Rajagiriya area.
Shangri-La's Hambantota Resort & Spa, Sri Lanka, launched the Elephant R.U.N. (Reuse + Upcycle = New Art) competition in 2015. The competition was open to Sri Lankan residents to create Asian elephant sculptures using only discarded materials. The aim of the competition is to raise awareness of the current threats to the survival of wild Asian elephants in Sri Lanka, such as elephant-human conflict, habitat loss and fragmentation, and illegal hunting.
The free-style challenge demonstrates how upcycling, conservation and art can go hand-in-hand, and that unwanted objects can be upcycled into inspirational works of art and profitable businesses with the support of the community.

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