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[Design Column] Transformation of a plastic bag, Théla

If the sight of piles of black plastic bags, crammed with plastic waste of all colours, being shoved into landfills ever concerned you, the eco-friendly social venture Théla proposes a new solution: to create weaved bags or accessories from plastic bags.

Products created by Théla

Every product of Théla is plastic bags given a second life. Workers visit recycling centers or landfills to specifically gather disposed plastic bags that would be buried otherwise, and cut and tie them into long straps. The straps are then twisted and weaved into products that have their own distinctive design by female workers in rural communities.

Picture of a Théla worker weaving with her hands

The outcomes of such effort are not only a marvellously beautiful piece of traditional artwork, but also a true display of eco-friendliness. Furthermore, the design does not require expertise, as the creation is dictated by only a few number of weaving skills. Also, the design's beauty stems from randomness rather than an organized, sophisticated set of techniques like Van Gogh's paintings.

However, a problem that I identify with the design is time-efficiency. Compared to the aesthetic excellency of the products, the time for weaving and threading each of the plastic bags, compared with the amount of waste that it can deal with, seems too long. The problem with time-efficiency is not only that the power to tackle environmental problems are limited, but also that the returns are marginally larger than the time and investment required. This means that the income of those who are employed--in this case the poor women of the third world--cannot be guaranteed.

Still, the fact that the company strives to find value in waste and provides employment for the vulnerable in the third world is a truly meaningful endeavour.

Added on Sept 21, 2020- Furthermore, the aesthetics are truly amazing--I should actually consider trying a similar version of this weaving in our Penguin Village sessions.


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