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The treasure of trash

January 13 - 19, 2021
Gulf Weekly The treasure of trash

Gulf Weekly Naman Arora
By Naman Arora

Enterprising environmentalist Raheel Al Abassi wants to give saving the environment a second chance with her upcycling thrift store concept.

The Bahrain Polytechnic student’s ‘Second Chances’ idea recently took the top prize in the One% Challenge,’ a joint initiative between the university and the volunteering platform.

“Second Chances will be a thrift store that also upcycles plastic – so we plan to collect unwanted items across the country and then use them to raise money for environmental and community charities,” the 24-year-old student told the GulfWeekly.

“We will be selling items like toys and furniture at the store and I also plan to upcycle some plastic items like bottles and caps into furniture and pen holders.”

Bahrain produced 1.6 million tonnes of waste in 2019, according to Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Minister Essam Khalaf.

Much of this is plastic, and while measures are being introduced to reduce this and recycle plastic, including a recycling factory for electronics, most recycling is actually ‘downcycling,’ where the final product is inferior in quality or function to the original item.

Upcycling is the opposite, whereby unwanted items are transformed into objects of greater value, either artistically or environmentally. While thrift stores are not a new concept, Raheel wants to create the first thrift store in Bahrain that emphasises upcycling as part of its ethos. “Waste and waste management have been a hot topic for some time now, and if we can all contribute in a way, such as dealing with secondhand items, we will be able to make a small change to the environment,” Raheel added.

“The concept and culture of thrifting is not that big in Bahrain. I am aware that there are thrift stores here – which I even go to – and these stores have been doing great for the thrifting culture but the more we introduce this concept, the more people will start to get used to it.”

The programme is still in its initial stages, and having won the One% Challenge, Raheel will now be connected with mentors to help get her project off the ground.

Environmental activist-artists, like Victoria Teo, have upcycled plastics, making beautiful dresses and other products and Raheel is hoping that her thrift store becomes a central spot for artists and others to find plastic items to use in their art projects.

Raheel plans to start the idea as a digital platform, given the current Covid-19 situation and is hoping to use the One% volunteering platform to attract like-minded volunteers to the cause.

In addition to volunteers, she is also looking for pre-loved items that may be seeking a new home.

“Starting off, the items would be stored with me personally, but as the project expands, there are plans of renting storage units,” the Information Communication Technology student explained.

“The upcycling will be mainly geared towards damaged goods that are received and based on the state of the item and the item itself, the upcycling process and end result will be determined.

“Hopefully, as the project goes on, we can work with other entities as part of the social and philanthropic aspect of the project.”

The young environmentalist is no stranger to being the change in the world around her, having participated in the Bahrain Trust Foundation’s goodwill trips around the world. She also took part in last year’s regional United Nation Development Programme Youth Leadership Programme.

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