From waste to worth: How one company is turning plastic trash into school chairs

Two sacks of plastic waste sit beside a trio of school chairs made from plastic waste. Image Credit: Courtesy of Winder Recycling.

From waste to worth: How one company is turning plastic trash into school chairs

In the heart of the Philippines, a stark environmental challenge looms as the nation grapples with an overwhelming reliance on single-use plastics, marking its significant contribution to the global plastic waste crisis. 

Amid this backdrop, Envirotech Recycling Inc., a pioneering initiative based in Davao City, is on a mission to transform plastic waste into valuable resources to create a cleaner and greener future for the country and the world. 

The alarming scale of plastic waste

Filipinos use around 212 million sachets and shopping bags every day. These numbers reflect the country's dependence on single-use plastics. The situation has not been improving in the Philippines as the country was tagged as a major contributor to the global plastic waste crisis. Advocates said that the problem is exacerbated by firms that sell their products in cheap, disposable packaging.

Transforming plastic waste into functional items

Envirotech Recycling Inc. aims to lessen the plastic waste that would otherwise end up in the country’s oceans or landfills. To achieve its goal, the company collects single-use plastics from communities and big companies and recycles them into useful items such as school chairs. 

These products, according to Envirotech, are made of 100 % recycled plastic. The company’s President and CEO, Winchester Lemen, said that they were able to process around 2.5 million kilograms of waste this year in their five plants located across Luzon and Mindanao islands.

Chairs and benches made by Envirotech. Image Credit: Courtesy of Winder Recycling.

A holistic approach to waste management 

“We are advocating to reduce plastic waste, and at the same time, create livelihood programs for everyone. And (we are) helping the Earth heal,” Lemen said, explaining one Envirotech school chair was made from around 20 to 30 kilograms of plastics. He claimed that his company was the only one in the country that combined all sorts of waste in its plants. 

“So, name it— sachets, plastic cups, sando bags, candy wrappers, Styrofoam— we mix it up all together in our plant,” he explained, adding that the finished products proved to be durable as they could not be broken. Based on Waste Ed’s social media video, the plastics that Envirotech collects are shredded, crushed, sorted, melted, molded, and assembled.  

Lemen said that workers are equipped with safety gear, and the plants have buffers that filter out the steam or smoke produced during the melting process. Aside from chairs, Envirotech has ventured into making benches, trash bins, and pots, among other functional items.

Debating the impact of recycling technologies

Although this recycling technology could be an answer to the ongoing plastic waste problem for consumers and firms, environmentalist and co-convenor of War on Waste Negros Oriental, Merci Ferrer, thought otherwise. “No, it's not a solution… it actually encourages companies to create more (plastics),” she said, adding that the initiative was only handling the problem “from the end of the pipe.” 

For her, it was important to consider the bigger picture. “We need to think of that on a bigger, broader environmental, sustainability issue. The toxicity of a certain material should be one of the top considerations,” Ferrer said, explaining that more studies should be done on the emissions brought about by melting plastics of different types. 

Collective action for a sustainable future

While the future of recycling is complex with divergent viewpoints, initiatives like Envirotech's recycling endeavors offer a glimmer of hope and a practical pathway towards sustainability. It is clear that the journey to mitigate plastic pollution requires a collective effort, embracing not only technological advancements but also a shift in societal attitudes towards consumption and waste. 

As the Philippines continues to navigate this pressing issue, the synergy of government, industry, and citizens will be paramount in crafting a future where the beauty of the archipelago is matched by its environmental resilience.

Explore One Earth's Climate Solutions Framework

You might also like

Join the One Earth Community

Subscribe to receive monthly updates on climate solutions, environmental heroes, and the profound beauty and wonder of our shared planet Earth.