Michele McIntyre is at the forefront of an amazing recycling project in Australia. Her group weaves single-use plastic, discarded signs and banners into fashionable purses, shopping bags, jewelry and even an avant-garde fashion like an “Elton John” dress or a soft drink pull-tab halter top.
This is custom couture fashioned from material destined for the landfill. As Michelle tells it, they were sitting around with a glass of bubbly brainstorming what do to with a supply of high-quality banners from an Elton concert.
I have no talent in sewing but I have great ideas and hit upon making a dress.
One of the members’ familiar with sewing cut the banners, and slowly the dress came to life.
How I Started Junk Weaving
“Megan Bayliss started a not-for-profit Junk Weavers and I met her at some workshops for my daughters’ school. She and I became friends. At the time I was working in government and thought her classes would be terrific for diversionary programs for remote Indigenous children. Megan traveled and gave workshops which were a real hit with the kids.
Megan had to return to work and I wanted to spend more time with my daughter after my husband died. I began to run workshops.
Growing up on a farm, I have always been passionate about the environment. This is a way that I can do my bit and teach others to recycle and reuse to cut down on landfills.”
The Unique Challenges of Junk Weaving
It takes considerable time to get from the collection of the garbage to the finished product. Finding a way to monetize the effort is a key challenge.
“Getting junk is probably the easiest part of the process. Every business that we connect with love the idea that we are recycling and that their bags and banners are not ending up in the landfill. There is no shortage of junk or ideas of things to do with it. I am always pushing the barriers of what we can do. We search the internet for ideas to see what we can do with our rubbish.”
The Benefits of Junk Weaving
Junk weaving reduces the impact on landfills and our environment but it also impacts the social fabric of the community and contributes to the well-being of its’ individuals and families.
The folding or weaving can be done anywhere, by anyone, solo or in groups. It can serve as a craft project for the elderly, students or fundraising and lets everyone recycle and participate in an active way in environmental sustainability.
“It is very therapeutic. When we get groups of women together weaving and talking, it leads to conversation. They start talking about issues, sharing and supporting one another. It is just amazing. I am continually blown away by the impact we can have on each other’s life.
I really get a kick out of people’s reactions when they see our products. They are in awe, especially the bags made from pet food bags. I love the smile on a kids face when they make their own bangle and learn to recycle plastic. One elderly woman only had the use of one arm and she made a bangle. She was so determined and in the end, felt such joy. It still gives me goosebumps when I think about it.”
The Personal Perspective
“Junk Weaving (and EFT) saved me at a time when I felt lost and in limbo after my husband passed away. It has allowed me to watch my daughter grow up. They do it so quickly and in the blink of an eye. Zoe now leads the workshops we do with kids because as she tells me, she knows what kids want.
It has pushed me past my boundaries. I wrote a Hip Hop song about Junk Weaving and Zoe is the voice. That is really awesome.
I continue to learn constantly. I do EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) ‘tapping’ and recently completed my Reike masters. I used these two tools to help me when my husband died and I use them for my friends as well and the occasional clients. I like to keep up to date and push myself to learn more.
FIVE Fast Questions:
What is your key strength?
Determination. I will not let anything beat me, even though I have struggled, had PTSD, been on the verge of depression, repressed grief but I will not let that win. I always have a smile, I see the good in everyone and I love life and my daughter.
What is something you would like to accomplish in the future?
A goal of mine is to take my daughter traveling running workshops for women teaching them to recycle from their pantries and kitchens.
Do you have a favorite book that totally changed the way you thought about life and why?
No not a book – a website – The tapping Solution – this changed my life when I was struggling.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Never give up. Tomorrow is a brand new day and nothing is impossible.
Is there a key piece of wisdom you would like to share with women contemplating a renewed self?
Don’t be afraid. You can do this. Plus the best things in life are free. Smiles, love, kindness, gratitude, the beauty around you, and many more. Every day can lead to a new beginning. Just take baby steps, one at a time and you will get to where you want to be. Trust yourself.
Michelle is happy to share her knowledge. Reach out to her for more information on how to recycle single-use plastic: