Upside to shoes

Upside to shoes

The ban on free plastic bags encouraged people to turn to reusable, non-woven shopping bags. Although these cannot be recycled, one 'green' company has stepped forward to give them a new lease of life

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(From left) junior reporter Arjun Sivakumar, Cirbaf's creative director Christine Tsoi Yee-ki, instructor Grace Ng Uen-wa, and junior reporters Hollie Chung and Ilya Hora after finishing their slipper-making workshop.
(From left) junior reporter Arjun Sivakumar, Cirbaf's creative director Christine Tsoi Yee-ki, instructor Grace Ng Uen-wa, and junior reporters Hollie Chung and Ilya Hora after finishing their slipper-making workshop.
Photo: Chris Lau/SCMP
Non-woven bags are greener alternatives than plastic bags. But when it comes to disposing of them, we still have to figure out a way to manage the waste because most of them cannot be recycled.

Some of our junior reporters met Paul Li Wing-fai at his company, Cirbaf's, in Kowloon Tong. He introduced them to the idea of "upcycling". This is where unwanted materials are converted into new, useful products. Cirbaf's reuses old, non-woven bags, fabric and clothes to make footwear, lifestyle bags and accessories.

Li and his staff showed our junior reporters how to turn old, non-woven bags into colourful flip-flops ...

What is Cirbaf's?


A finished pair of slippers.

Cirbaf's is a small-sized company which transforms non-woven bags into attractive and practical products, such as slippers for adults and babies.

Executive director Paul Li says the company collects non-woven bags from schools and non-government organisations. Other materials, such as cloth, come from textile waste, which universities and design schools in Hong Kong no longer need.

Cirbaf's does not have an automated production line. The company's staff help people with disabilities to adapt to society by teaching them how to make slippers by hand. It employs them as slipper makers.

The only part of the manufacturing in which a machine is used is when glue is applied to stick on the soles of the slippers. This is difficult to do by hand.

The finished slippers are sold in stores that offer design and innovation products. Cirbaf's handmade products are often bought by tourists, who are very receptive to the idea of upcycling.

Arjun Sivakumar


Meet the designer


Cirbaf's Christine Tsoi gives advice to Ilya Hora (left) and Hollie Chung.

What does Cirbaf's symbolise? Well, if you spell the word backwards you'll find out - fabric. This explains everything. The goal of this company is to collect used fabrics and make them into different products. The company was originally established in 2010 to help handicapped people design their own clothes.

Designer Christine Tsoi Yee-ki a graduate of Britain's Nottingham Trent University, is Cirbaf's creative director. She is very experienced and knows what is "in" and "out" of style. Tsoi can make lovely flip-flops, with elaborate embroidery. In addition to her work at Cirbaf's, she has also designed eyewear, lights and shoes.

Cirbaf's products can be found in souvenir shops, including Ecols, in Tsim Tsa Tsui, which promotes green living; the Design Gallery, in Wan Chai; and Hong Kong International Airport.

Ilya Hora


Upcycling mission

A ban on the free distribution of plastic bags in retail stores was imposed in 2009. This move, seen as a big step forward in protecting Hong Kong's environment, has helped cut down the use of plastic bags. Moreover, a lot of shoppers are now using reusable bags, which are being distributed free by some stores. But many of these bags aren't very environmentally friendly. They are made from low-cost, non-woven fabrics made from non-recyclable materials.

To tackle this problem, Cirbaf's uses fabric upcycling - converting useless material into something new - to create other products from abandoned non-woven bags.

Hollie Chung


The next Cirbaf's slipper-making workshop is on October 14. For details, call 2392 5330, or e-mail rwb330@nlpra.org.hk

Young Post organises regular activities for our junior reporters. If you wish to join, send your name, age, school and contact details to reporters.club@scmp.com, with "jun rep application" in the subject bar

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