Monday, April 15, 2024

This Female Artist Sees Beauty Where Others See Trash


Perpetual Wanjiku is on a mission to transform old objects into art masterpieces through waste recycling, upcycling and reusing.

Together with her five friends, the 22-year old is promoting a circular economy through their Nairobi-based social enterprise – Creative Waste Network. For instance, they have previously repurposed used soft drink cans into Christmas trees, turned old newspapers and old cartons into beautiful flower vases and made jewelry (earrings and bracelets) from plastic bottles.

Waste disposal is a menace around Nairobi and the group’s mission is to promote social and environmental responsibility.

Africa Sustainability Matters environment reporter Pamela Okutoyi caught up with Wanjiku to find out more about what they do.

Tell us a bit about Creative Waste Network

Creative Waste Network, abbreviated as Crewan, was officially started in September 2019. It is a youth-led initiative whose aim is to create environmental conservation awareness as well as promote creativity. We create wealth out of waste, out of items that would ordinary be thrown away.

Crewan has six amazing creative minds, and each one of them has a specific role best suited to their abilities and passion.

What drove you into the field of sustainability?

For starters, I’m naturally creative. After joining campus, I enrolled for an environmental related course – Environmental Planning and Management. This course turned out to be my eye opener to the environmental conservation and sustainability world. From there, I grew interest and passion in conservation and decided to venture into upcycling waste to make a change.

That’s when I realised I could combine my creativity talent and my passion in conservation, alongside my friends. That pretty much sums up the birth of Crewan – which promotes both environmental conservation and creativity.

What kind of waste do you recycle?

We recycle and upcycle paper waste, plastic waste, cloth waste as well as glass waste.

What are some of your products?

We essentially make home decors and office equipment. The list includes:

  • Flower vases, which we make from used plastic bottles, newspapers, perfume bottles as well as glass bottles.
  • Wall art – from old cartons and tissue rolls.
  • Jewelry including earrings and bracelets, which we make from plastic bottles, cartons, as well as cardboard waste.

Where do you source the materials?

Most of our materials are sourced from friends, neighbors and events such as parties where we collect plastic bottles, cups, spoons, newspapers, cartons and sometimes clothes and pretty much everything that can be turned into art.

Where can buyers find your products?

You can make orders on our online platforms and we deliver. The prices are fairly affordable with the vases costing between Ksh500 – 1,000 depending on the detailing. The wall art costs between Ksh700 – 1,500 while jewelry is between Ksh150 – 300.

Aside from repurposing solid waste, what other sustainable projects are you involved in?  

We have been running school programmes around sustainability. Our aim is to raise a generation that is environmental conscious. For instance, we visit schools to teach them how they can manage their solid waste. We also involve the kids in the upcycling projects which they love because it triggers their creativity and makes them believe they can change the world in their own small way.

We also have many programs lined up after this pandemic is over.

What are some of the challenges encountered?

Our main challenge is getting funds. This limits us when doing huge projects that require acquisition of materials that are beyond our affordability range.

What is your biggest concern about Africa’s ability to create a more sustainable society?

My biggest concern is that not so many people understand how crucial sustainability is when it comes to best practices and growth. Therefore, this could take time, maybe years, before we achieve sustainability in social, political, economic and environmental sectors.

What advice would you offer others seeking to create change in the sustainability space?

My advice is to have self-belief. You will really need it when putting your work out there. When starting out with just an idea, very few people tend to believe in it. That means close to no support. But when you believe in yourself and your idea, things will always work out.

What are your future plans for Crewan?

We hope to start an interior design center for our upcycled products. This will make people understand how possible it is to control the solid waste menace.

What are your interests and hobbies outside work?

When not designing, I’m mostly singing or writing articles or reading. Also, I love nature a lot, so outdoor activities like hiking and nature walks are my indulgence.

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