Interior designer Willie Garcia is the purveyor of all things upcycled, and her main vision in life is to have a zero-waste world.
She started making bags and accessories out of recycled plastic wrappers in 2009, but because of the competition in the fashion industry (“Besides, I’m not a fashion designer, I’m an interior designer!” she recalls), decided to shift gears and create upcycled furniture under the company name JunkNot! Eco Creatives.
And then in 2015, the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) hired Willie to create a livelihood program for the residents of the Taal Volcano Protective Landscape (TVPL), a small community living on the edges of Taal Volcano, an active volcano in Southern Luzon.
Willie asked them to make a waste audit in their community, and these were their findings: “The biggest cause of their trash were the residuals,” Willie says. “It was the single-use plastics like instant noodle packaging, cupcake packs…because the island doesn’t have any electricity, they live in a danger zone and It’s not allowed. Some residents have solar panels, others have generators, but basically, they consume [instant food] because they have no refrigerators.”
The designer then taught the residents how to segregate. Afterwards, she trained the women on how to clean the plastic wrappers and weave them into strips used in the production of Willie’s furniture pieces. The women earned money doing this, and it empowered and improved their lives, as they were able to buy small solar panels, appliances, and furnishings. After a few years, the Taal town had zero waste.
And then Taal Volcano had its most recent, major eruption in January 2020, covering the outlying towns in ashfall and displacing its residents. Willie put up a fund drive for the relief goods of the townspeople, and after a few months, they (literally) rose from the ashes to begin a new project, the JunkNot Concept Store, which was launched at the Selah Pods Hotel in Pasay in February.
Willie put up the store as a collective with fellow recyclers and up-cyclers in her showroom at the hotel, and every piece, from the paper tubing sofa to the fabric scrap rug, is upcycled. The up-cyclers come from all parts of the country, from Taguig (Siklo accessories made out of rubber tire tubing) to Antipolo (AkreH crocheted products).
Almost every seller supports an advocacy or community, such as the Dumagat women, who crochet AkreH’s pieces out of garment scraps, and female inmates in Iloilo, who hand-embroider the whimsical Inday Dolls.
These like-minded sellers, along with Willie, hope to foster a circular economy in the Philippines, and to make the public more aware of their consumption and their production of waste. The designer says that it’s easy to live a zero-waste life, you just have to start doing it at home by segregating your trash, and minimizing consumption of single-use items.
The JunkNot Concept Store at Selah Pods Hotel is temporarily closed because of the General Community Quarantine, but you can view the products and order online at their website, or contact them at +639054244255. To read my Spot article on Willie, click here.