Combatting the insanity of the throw-away culture | Sunday Observer
“Out of Garbage / Waste to dress”

Combatting the insanity of the throw-away culture

8 January, 2023

Despite the fact that discarded plastic and waste is finding its way into wardrobes around the world thanks to a rise in the number of environment-conscious fashion designers using material made from recycled ocean waste, still millions of tons of plastic end up in the sea each year and cannot be recycled in the usual way.

Many international brands are increasingly partnering with organizations which raise awareness of the destructive effect of ocean plastics and sourcing materials that regenerate and transform ocean waste into sustainable materials.

“Out of Garbage” is one such creative attempt initiated recently by One World Foundation focusing on utilizing garbage and residue for fanciful fashion purposes, thereby bringing a subject to the catwalk that makes us conscious of the fact that every individual can contribute with his or her lifestyle, habits and attitudes to combat the insanity of our throw-away culture.

The One World Foundation is known for its creative initiatives that promotes cultural exchange and mutual understanding across borders and “Out of Garbage” is one such bold effort in collaboration with the Austrian designers Bettina Reichl, Steffen Pirkl and Xiane Kangela.

Material from the beach

The project took place at the One World Foundation free education unit and dozens of women of the tailoring school benefited from the project. In late November last year, Bettina Reichl and Steffen Pirkl came down to Sri Lanka on the invitation made by One World Foundation and with the 20 women of the women’s cooperative and their teachers looked for interesting materials at the Ahungalla beach for weeks. They were able to collect many kilos of plastic bags, cups, drinking straws, fast food packaging, nets, aluminum cans, bottles and various other natural materials.

“We divided ourselves into five groups and collected and sorted natural materials, plastic, metal, ocean plastic and factory leftovers. I guided them to their first experience and they understood the different nature of each type of material and created surfaces by investigating technical implementation. Thereafter, students started to create their individual designs for dresses and it was an extremely fun and inspiring activity. They were able to come up with interesting designs from ironed banana leaves, hundreds of bottle caps, trashed aluminum cans, fishing nets and damaged zippers,” Bettina Reichl told the Sunday Observer.

It was Bettina’s first visit to Sri Lanka and she fell in love with the magical attraction of the beautiful island.

“I love its beautiful landscapes, spiritual people and manifold cultures. The intense power of nature teaches you respect and leads easily to the recognition of unity with all beings. Many oceanic animals are harmed by thrown away plastics: Fish, turtles, sea birds and whales are entangled in bags or mistake small plastic items as food, but also animals on land, which eat straw ball nettings or plastics from garbage heaps,” Bettina added.

Safer world for animals

Her work “Out of Garbage / Waste to dress” she dedicated to her beloved cat, which died through a hormonal disease caused by substances coming out of plastics. Bettina strongly believes and her creativity focuses more on creating a safer world for animals. “It is in our responsibility to protect the beauty of Planet Earth and the wellbeing of all creatures,” she added.

The “Out of Garbage” project initially was initiated in 2020 which didn’t come to light due to the Covid pandemic. The initiators had to interrupt the project and wait until things were normal.

“Due to the corona crisis schools also closed in Sri Lanka and we had to interrupt our project. We thank photographer Sasindu Pramuditha and our model Methuli Thesara Wijesekara for their spontaneous availability for a photo shoot to document the first finished costumes made of leaves, plastic bags, cellulose and plastic nets, plastic bottles, aluminum cans and plastic straws.

“However, we were able to complete the project recently and were able to display the talents and creativity of the tailoring school students at the fashion show last week at the One World Foundation. We believe that with this creative endeavour we were able to inspire our consciousness and ability to communicate.

“Working together with creativity can serve to design a better future. Every individual can contribute with his or her lifestyle, habits and attitudes to combat the insanity of our throw-away culture. Out with plastic and back to nature. And every individual can contribute to a more human society. Out of the ego and back to unity of all mankind,” said Kathrin Messner, founder and director of One World Foundation.

Creative use

For many years the One World Foundation has been laying a focus on environmental protection awareness, supported as a cross-cutting theme at various levels: waste separation, collection of waste from beaches, special exam and essay topics as well as other initiatives at the free education unit. “Out of Garbage” goes far beyond creating awareness by showing techniques to upcycle the garbage materials and to make creative use of them.

“I am very happy and thankful about the wonderful fashion project from Bettina Reichl and Irma Denk at our Women’s Cooperation. One World Foundation is inspired by the concept of the Social Sculpture by artist Joseph Beuys. The question of how we shape the world in which we live is one of the most relevant questions of our times,” Kathrin further added.

“Out of Garbage” is a sensible project that exhibited one way of how we can make use of our creativity for positive change, and the project is also a strong contributor to the programs of One World foundation which aims at female empowerment.

Pix credit: - Marija Kanizaj