Within the cycle of circular economy, resource optimization is key to reducing the amount of waste that is disposed downstream. Therefore, the factor that we must take into account alongside waste management is the question of whether we have made the most use of each and every item.
Such is the case for funeral wreaths, an emotional necessity for commemorating the dearly departed. However, after use or once the flowers have wilted, these wreaths transform into different types of waste, like flowers, straw, and wooden frames. This inspired Nontikarn Assarasakorn, heiress to a plastic mat manufacturer, to envision that her family’s products could add value both in terms of aesthetics and functionality, resulting in “La Luek” wreaths, made from 100% recycled plastic mats.
Born into a family that has manufactured plastic mats for over 50 years, Nontikarn began to develop an environmental consciousness that led her to consider the ways in which they, as manufacturers of plastic products, could help the environment while instilling awareness among consumers of how to maximize the utility of plastic. Thus, she resolved to transition to the use of recycled plastic resins for the production of mats instead of relying on virgin resins as previously done.
“We recognized that consumers view plastic as a problem, so we thought about what we could do. We started by gradually switching from virgin plastic resin to recycled plastic while maintaining the same product features and quality. With gradual development, we were able to utilize 100% recycled plastic, and once we achieved success with the material, we took the next step of considering how we could utilize our product in other applications.”
To leverage the production of recycled plastic mats to create a novel product, Nontikarn turned her focus to waste and saw that a single funeral wreath produces many types of waste. “So, we combined all the ideas together. We were already using recycled plastic in production, and this would give further use to our product. That’s why we created the mat wreath. This is not to mention that mats are already items used in temples to begin with.”
This innovative application of plastic mats was thus born, starting from the design process by updating the appearance of the plastic mats, both in terms of color and pattern, to be more contemporary and suited to people of all ages, all the way to designing the mat wreaths themselves to be aesthetically pleasing and respectful for both senders and recipients as well as being suitable for use in temples as if they were any other decorative item.
“The younger generation is very environmentally conscious, but we didn’t know exactly what to do,” Nontikarn explains, “because we don’t have a manual or official guidelines on how to manage different types of waste, so each person has their own method; therefore, as manufacturers of plastic products, we should be the ones to take initiative and take part in realizing a circular economy to create mutual benefits for everyone in society.”
In much the same way, if everyone in society pitches in and takes action, collaboration on individual levels can snowball and eventually help build a beautiful world and a sustainable future for generations to come.
We are all well aware that plastic has a long lifespan, but everyone focuses on the negative side of this aspect, how long it takes for plastic to degrade, and how this harms the environment. Instead, we should regard the longevity of plastic as a benefit, a feature that enables the material to be reused over and over again until the end of its lifespan.
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