Lima: a Plastic Desert


Plastic Bags.

In Lima we see them every day; from the weekly green Vivanda bags our parents bring home after the casual “grocery shopping,” to the huge torn up pieces spread across the beaches along our own Costa Verde. They are everywhere; in fact, all of us are so used to their presence that they’ve merged into the picture.

Fortunately, a new eco-friendly initiative called “ Plastic Desert will aim to capture another snapshot of the city by placing a new, playful product in the market.

The break met with Rebeca Delgado, one of the social entrepreneurs who is supporting an initiative that gives a whole new meaning to what we perceive as “trash.”

Had you ever thought of using plastic bags to create a textile that could be applied to any trendy product?

As consumers, we all go to jockey plaza when we need a case for our laptops or even a casual handbag or purse, but what if I told you that now you can do this and help the environment at the same time. “Plastic Desert” is a recently introduced project in the North of Peru by the Dutch NGO Soul Surfers that works with mothers, wives and daughters residing in the coast of Lobitos’ beach towards the production of a fabric 100% consolidated of plastic scraps surrounding their homes.

Rebeca tells us that this project has just emerged recently, but the results reflect great progress. The women have made use of the low resources hey have on hand and have transformed them into the base for handy and colorful items; a hobby that they not only share and enjoy, but they can benefit from economically. Contentedly, she shares how even though the impact is not “global” yet, ‘Lobitos’ has become a much happier community. The project has given them the awareness of nature they lacked a few years ago.

As we talked, I was especially curious about the innovative process these ladies implemented. Surprisingly, she told me we were not talking about a ‘rocket science’ procedure at all, but it takes collaboration, patience and care in the skilled handiwork that only their five ladies have, to end with such a fresh final product.

Today, their team consists of four weavers and one seamstress they affectionately nickname “Lala”. By joining forces, they are able to pull it off from start to finish; The first step is to start with the problem. They collect countless bags from the shore to be recycled. Given that their motivation is not only profit but also that they truly desire to leave the coast impeccable, they are not selective in the search. Instead, they pick up whatever scrap they run into along the way.

After deeply cleansing the material, it is hung to dry until it is ready to be slashed into the stripes that will become the base for the fabric. Very much like weaving with wool, these four ladies use a wooden ‘telar’, and interlace the plastic stripes together. In each new purse and case they create, about six bags are recycled and as these young girls never know what they will obtain from their walks on the beach it adds to the fun and uniqueness of the creation process. It takes them about six hours, where they only rely on their hands, creativity and drive to bring each bag or case into life.

At the end, Lala the seamstress, finalizes the product by adding the final zippers and straps, ready to be sold at a price of 35 – 45 soles. The money earned goes directly to serve the locals’ families yet the project still gains because with it, they are spreading the ecological conscience. Their main objective is not the money but to increase our awareness, because unconsciously we, Peruvians, are trashing our own home.

Yes, she affirms “of course now in Lima when people see me using these handbags instead of a regular purse they are startled… are you using a purse made out of TRASH?” she jokes.

Still, she says that their vision is to expand into the big city and along with stores and support from popular designers that have innovative products like this one, position it in the market. Through this, Lima’s society will start taking pride in carrying an item made out of this reused material. She envisions a trend, making it “fashionable” to take care of our earth.

She also adds that the future plan is to grow their variety of products, because,
“Common! What hundreds of things can you create with this vivid textile…there are no limits.” From lively lamps to curtains that can decorate our beach houses. It is all left to our imagination.

They are not the only ones who are doing this, she adds. If you, as a Limeñan citizen, have been attentive lately, you would have noticed how this is already becoming at trend. “L.O.O.P” (Life Out Of Plastic) for example, is another group that has used the recycling of plastic bottles in the past to create a fabric for the recognized designer Susan Wagner, whose purses were an instant sensation on the market.

Finally, she confesses that chef Coque Ossio, and Rafael Cassabone, gastronomic entrepreneurs of various restaurants in the city (one of them being La Plazita) are working on a new spot that will carry an “onda ecológica.” The place will have a green flow in its atmosphere with the use of this material for key decorations, such as the table covers.

At the end of the interview, I was so fascinated with the idea that I had to take a laptop cover myself. Just last week, Rebeca took 10 bags from Lobitos to work, where they sold quicker than hot bread. There is no doubt that the popularity of this product will be stellar as the project develops.

If you want to contribute to the movement don’t hesitate! Get your own one-of-a-kind handbag or a case made out of recycled plastic bags. Because, leaving them lying in the beach is way old-fashioned, but helping the environment and wearing this 100% green product is right on trend.Ever thought of reusing plastic bags for a fashionable textile? Well, Plastic Desert has! It’s new, it’s fresh, and it’s GREEN.