Project members use many plastic articles, including empty oil bottles, mineral water bottles, and paper cups and bowls designed for single use.
“Given that plastic takes several hundred years to dissolve and that Vietnam is among the countries that dispose of the most waste plastic in the world, we decided we would do something with used plastic,” said Do Thi Hong Nhung, head of the financial board of the Relight project.
Typically, used bottles are cut into two parts and only the upper portion is repurposed.
For one upcycling project, students then painted the upper part of each bottle different colours and put an energy-saving bulb inside the bottle.
Decorating each lampshade is up to each member’s creativity. Some draw a cute black cat, red crab or little white pig. Others draw modern buildings or even abstract and artful paintings.
Some lampshades require more than just drawing and colouring. The original bottle is cut in the shape of a rabbit with ears, eyes and mouth. The edges are then covered with paper to make them look smooth.
The project also uses other articles for decoration, including wool, bags from cakes and sweets, old newspaper, plastic spoons and cans. High school students use their cleverness and meticulousness to make the best use of materials they have on hand.
An energy-saving bulb is the finishing touch put inside each plastic bottle lampshade when it is ready to light.
Nearly 50 upcycled Relight lamps were on display on September 18 in a coffee house on Giang Vo Street.
“We expected the event to attract young people but it was amazing that parents also came and enjoyed the event,” Duong Lan Anh, head of the content Department of the Relight, said.
"To promote the use of recycled lampshades, the project plans to perform music on Hanoi’s pedestrian streets to sell lamps. Money will be given to charity for cancer patients," Anh said.
The project aims to raise community awareness about the importance of recycling plastic, to help locals make a habit of collecting used plastic, and to teach people how to turn used plastic into beautiful recycled lampshades.
The Relight project has about 50 members. The initiative started on August 1 and has had three major phases, so far: a plastic collection campaign, lamp-making sessions, and a public display of finished upcycled lampshades.
“We focus on students, as well as on local residents and project members. It is essential that people make a habit of collecting plastic bottles,” said Anh.
Members were divided into five small groups, each of which visited nearby schools to do public education outreach and to install collection boxes for people to put used plastic in.
“The project was implemented in August, the storm season in Hanoi, so we had some difficulties in commuting and transporting collection boxes to schools. Sometimes we experienced delays due to heavy rains, which affected the progress of the project,” said Anh.
Project members also made use of school break times to disseminate information to students about the importance of recycling and the impact of environmental pollution.
“We receive huge support and interest from Den Lu Secondary School in Hoang Mai District, Me Tri Secondary School in Tu Liem District, and Cau Giay High School in Cau Giay District. Many students of these schools registered to participate in the plastic waste collection campaign,” said Anh.
“One of the biggest challenges we face is that we all have to attend school, so sometimes we fail to agree on a meeting date to discuss the progress of the project,” said Bui Ngoc Anh, head of the organising team.
Following the success of the Relight, members continue to make lampshades, organise a mini talk show on environmental issues, and work on other smaller projects to promote the use of recycled lampshades.
A group of students came up with the idea of making lamps from plastic waste in July, after participating in a training held by Water Wise Vietnam. The organisation, whose core vision is to raise awareness about environmental problems in Vietnam among young people, offered soft skill training for Relight members.
“We learned a lot from the trainers, from PR to sponsor calling, communications and human resources management skills. These skills are the foundation for us to run the Relight,” said Anh. “Experienced trainers supported us before and during the project,” she said.