The origins of Aoracreo
It all started back in 2011 with aunty Angela coming into the warehouse on a sunny afternoon. By this time I was playing with the idea of making wallets out cotton canvas from the paintings I couldn't sell. She was fond of my art, and suggested I shouldn't destroy my paintings and that instead, I should use plastic bags to make this wallets. At this point I had already managed to make quite a few wallets to sell at the markets, and I ignored the idea completely at the beginning. But my hand sewing skills were not up to scratch for anyone to buy or even look at my wallets, so I decided to give it a go (see Figure 1). I have to admit that my first wallets looked more like plastic debris that you would find after a hurricane.
I managed to make five little monster wallets, which to my surprise all sold! No-one had even looked at my hand-stitched cotton canvas wallets ever, but somehow the people that came into my stall were all over these ugly looking Frankenstein wallets. They sold at 5 dollars each, and by the end of the market I couldn't believe anyone had bought any, so i was determined to perfect them and make more.
Since making the first piece of material for the first two years, I immersed my self in the world of 'what can I do with this material?'. I started playing with the amount of layers and variety of colours I could find, to make thicker and more durable material. This led me to prototype A LOT! I made a variety of products that were useful, colourful and very innovative.
In the market after selling the first five ugly wallets, I brought in 20 more wallets, looking more like the one in Figure 2. This time, I spent more time refining the joining method and to decorate the materials with all coloured plastic I could find. To my surprise again, they all sold again!
So that was it! I was set, for life, kind of... I did not really know back then what I was in for, I never thought this garage project was going to become my life project where I get involved my art skills into products at the same time I can tell everyone that yes! Indeed, we can be sustainable!
Me being an Aries, I got quite obsessed and very passionate at creating stuff with this materials. It seemed like the possibilities were endless when thinking about the potential applications. Back then, like most people right now, I did not know the difference between plastics, I was combining coloured plastics that I found and fusing them with heat. The colour contrasts were awesome, and it allowed me to create very appealing materials and products. (Figure 3)
However, something was wrong. Later, I found out that the difference between some plastics could be just as big as cardboard and glass, molecularly speaking. And that the process of combing plastics or making composite materials was not sustainable because the materials lost their recyclability functions.
After 5 years of self directed learning and experimentation I found that I needed some help, some direction that could help me channel all this work. Therefore I decided to study a bachelor of industrial design, which allowed me to expand my knowledge for this project. At university I not only learned more about the materials I was dealing with, but also the variety of plastics out there and their physical and technical characteristics. This allowed me to understand what I was doing, and to establish certain rules and limitations in the way I was producing my work. Also, I learned a variety of methods in which I can change the materials, shape and density, to make it suitable for several types of applications. In some of the projects done, I managed to refine an idea of a pannier bag which consisted of soft and hard plastics as well as the rear rack for a bicycle made entirely from milk bottle tops HDPE plastic and soft plastic bag offcuts (Figure 6). These projects closed the circle of knowledge about soft and hard plastics recycling.
Now after 7 years of research, I decided to take the next step in my journey. I consolidated and established all this information in the form of publications, educational workshops as well as more complex products that involved a number different processes to demonstrate the opportunities for recycling soft plastics, and its innumerable potential applications across a variety of industry.
So, here is where you can buy the creations that for so long I have worked hard to perfect, to make available to you, so you can also become part of the movement that is going to save the world from the monster plastic situation that is threatening many of our species and ecosystems out there.
As I am in the very beginning of taking this from being a garage project to an actual proper business that not only benefits me with an income, but potentially many other people as well. I ask from you for two things: COMMENTS and FEEDBACK.
If you like the idea, and you think I could do better in any way, or you have been working on something similar and would like to collaborate, I would love to hear from you. My idea with this project is to make it accessible to as many people as possible, so the impact of recycling plastics can take on more strength and therefore have a bigger environmental impact.
I have been very inspired by Dave Hakkens, The person behind the PRECIOUS PLASTIC project that started a few years back in the Netherlands. They have been able to help communities across the globe to set up small recycling facilities to combat hard plastic waste, and to use this to make useful products.
I believe the AORACREO project is very similar, except that it is with soft plastic bags, and it doesn't require complex machinery to start making useful products.
I would like to announce, that if you are interested in this project being deployed in your community or school, and want to learn what it takes and the methods to do it sustainably and safely, we would absolutely love to hear from you, so then we can start spreading the word. In no time you and your kindred folk, can get recycling, making and cleaning the world from plastic waste.
By Cesar Marulanda, founder of AORACREO
Figure 2 : Early wallet version using heat to seal the edges
Figure 3 : Colour combinations of plastic bags
Figure 4 : Cutting HDPE milk bottles. the same material as most plastic shopping bags.
Figure 5. Hard plastic hooks and plate made form plastic bags.
Figure 6: Rear Bicycle rack made entirely from milk bottle tops and plastic bag offcuts.
Plastic is a resource that is in abundance in the world at the moment.
It does not break down, and is currently filling up our landfill, oceans and other natural ecosystems.
How can I get involved?
Cesar and the Aoracreo team want as many people on board as possible to spread the word about upcycling our waste and teach how to create and repair things.
Contact us (link) to learn how you can help, or sign up to our mailing list to learn about upcoming workshops, working bees or markets we will be at!