Two companies in Thailand have teamed up to create plastic amulets using recycled materials. The joint venture between Dots Design Studio and Qualy Design was announced last week at Bangkok’s Design Week 2022 exhibition.
The goal of the initiative is to use the religious motivations of the Thai people to help curb the quantity of plastics flowing into the oceans. According to a report by the US-based Ocean Conservancy group, Thailand is the world’s fifth-largest contributor of plastic waste in the oceans.
“The idea of the plastic amulet is a result of finding a connection between the environment and Thai culture,” said Krit Phutpim, a director at Dots Design Studio. (Reuters)
Amulets with Buddhist images, either of the Buddha or of revered monks, have long been popular among lay Buddhists in Thailand, who often believe they carry powers that can help the owner lead a more fortunate or prosperous life. Amulets are usually made from stone or wood, and may contain holy objects such as blessed ash or the hair of an esteemed monk.
At the recent design exhibition, the amulets garnered much attention, with one man observing: “It doesn’t matter what materials amulets are made of, and plastic should be just as good as any other.” Another person agreed, saying: “This is a great idea that uses a deep cultural reference point to raise awareness of another issue. Plus, I highly doubt these amulets are any less effective than [expensive materials].” (UCA News)
Images on Qualy Design’s Instagram account illustrate the production process that turns waste plastic into a Buddhist amulet.
The new amulets are embossed with a seated Buddha on one side and the Thai word for “awareness” on the back to remind the wearer of both the benefits of awareness in life and the importance of these items as signifiers of ecological progress. Teerachai Suppameteekulwat, founder of Qualy Design, suggested that the design could help people to become more conscious of their impact on the environment in their daily lives.
For added religious appeal, the amulets are blessed by Buddhist monks. The amulets are exchanged for either 100 baht (US$3) or 1 kilogram of plastic that can be recycled to make further amulets. Money raised from sale of the amulets will go to charity.
While some people have questioned the ethics of making a holy object out of recycled waste, the companies say the response has mostly been strongly positive.
“I brought in 1.8 kilograms of plastic bottles. I want to give it a new life,” said 33-year-old exhibition goer Paramapon Suthichavengkul. (Reuters)
Even people who do not usually buy amulets have said that they find the new ecological motive attractive: “For once there might be a positive aspect to this silly superstition that actually has nothing to do with the Lord Buddha’s philosophy, which eschewed superstitious worship of animate and inanimate objects, including the Lord Buddha himself,” one woman observed. (UCA News)
Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country, with some 94.5 per cent of the population of 69 million people identifying as Buddhists, according to 2015 data. The Southeast Asian kingdom is home to approximately 300,000 monks and some 40,000 temples.
Thais make amulets from plastic waste to inspire more recycling (Reuters)
Plastic amulets seek to reduce Thailand’s pollution woes (UCA News)
Thai companies produce Buddhist amulets from used plastic (Pattaya Mail)
Qualy Design (Instagram)
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