x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Contest inspires Dubai students to take a fresh look at trash

A university competition has inspired students to take a new look at rubbish, challenging them to create new objects from unwanted items.

A lampshade that was made by Cobra Jahani, 19, from second-hand plastic spoons won the top prize in the Furnitrash competition held at the Canadian University of Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National
A lampshade that was made by Cobra Jahani, 19, from second-hand plastic spoons won the top prize in the Furnitrash competition held at the Canadian University of Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // A university competition has inspired students to take a new look at rubbish, challenging them to create new objects from unwanted items.

Held at the School of Architecture and Interior Design at the Canadian University of Dubai, the initiative focused on a concept known as upcycling. Whereas recycling involves processing so as to produce new products, upcycling is about combining waste to create something new.

Titled Furnitrash, the competition challenged 14 second-year students to create useful everyday objects. The pieces included a chair made out of old cassette tapes and a portable lounger made from used plastic bottles. An expert panel then judged the creations based on their looks, function and the use of materials.

Cobra Jahani, 19, was deemed the winner for designing a light shade from second-hand plastic spoons. Ms Jahani said she was initially sceptical of her chances for success and almost withdrew her entry.

“People persuaded me to keep my entry in and when they called my name in first place, I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I was delighted.”

The student collected the spoons from restaurants in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah and the endeavour needed repeated visits to the establishments, who were initially sceptical.

“I went round a few places just asking for the spoons they weren’t going to use,” she said. “I had to go back a few times, but my persistence paid off.”

Ms Jahani said that although this was the first time she did it, she will do more upcycling in future.

“I really enjoyed doing the project and I now look at everyday objects a little bit differently,” she said.

Dr Serkan Gunay, assistant professor at the School of Architecture and Interior Design at the university, said that after the first-time success, the university was considering taking the competition to high school students in Dubai next year.

“The challenge was to get students thinking about the design of everyday objects and how they can use those objects to create something totally new,” he said.

Among the members of the judging panel was Hazem El Khatib, vice president of the Association of Professional Interior Designers. Upcycling, which is already trendy in North America and Europe, has a good future in Dubai too, he said.

“Upcycling and green design is becoming more and more prevalent in the work that we do,” said Mr El Khatib.

“It is very trendy in other parts of the world, but Dubai is a very cosmopolitan place and as a result design trends seem to take a bit more time to take hold, but we have definitely seen an upturn in environmentally conscious design here recently,” he said.

With the UAE having one of the highest waste generations rates per capita in the world, waste management is among the most important environmental issues facing the country.

Studies carried out in 2010 by the Centre of Waste Management – Abu Dhabi estimated that the emirate produces between 1.8 kg and 2.4 kg per person per day, almost half of what the United Kingdom does. If the current trajectory remains the same, the Government could be spending as much as Dh22 billion on waste management per year in 2030 in Abu Dhabi alone. Experts have previously commented the Abu Dhabi figures are representative for the rest of the country.

vtodorova@thenational.ae