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Transforming trash: Wilhelmina Samonte Garcia’s plastic upcycling journey

Wilhelmina Samonte Garcia, a licensed interior designer, has emerged as a driving force in the world of sustainable creativity.

Her company, Junknot Eco Creatives, located in Binan, Laguna, is at the forefront of upcycling plastic waste into a wide array of products, ranging from furniture and lamp shades to rugs and bags.

Recognizing her remarkable contributions to the industry, Garcia and her team were recently honored with the prestigious Small Business Corporation’s 2023 MSME Asenso Award for the National Micro category at the MSME Summit held last July 17.

Garcia’s journey into sustainable design was inspired by her sister, a conservationist, and her passion for creativity manifested early on when she won the grand prize for interior design in the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE) competition back in 2007. Her innovative use of wood and materials salvaged from demolished houses showcased her ingenuity in repurposing resources.

It was during her sister’s coastal and barangay clean-ups that she witnessed the alarming volume of plastic waste polluting the environment. This eye-opening experience compelled Garcia to explore solutions for transforming plastic trash into valuable creations, diverting them away from landfills, seas, and incinerators.

In 2013, Garcia designed chairs using cleaned plastic packaging waste for her sister’s restaurant in Davao City.

Her passion for sustainable design led her to a transformative artist residency in Morocco in 2014, where she honed her craft in upcycling plastic materials, specifically mastering the technique of making ropes from plastic waste.

A pivotal moment in her journey came with a livelihood seminar commissioned by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Taal, where she piloted the production of furniture using recycled plastic waste.

Since then, she has been collaborating with three communities in Taal, empowering them with her knowledge to create roped plastics, which serve as the foundation for Junknot’s furniture, homeware, fashion products, and commissioned works.

Garcia’s work has received international acclaim, with her creations exhibited in prestigious venues in Paris, Belgium, Germany, and Japan. At the heart of Junknot’s offerings lie their exquisite furniture made from upcycled plastic waste.

In a bid to further encourage recycling, Garcia launched the innovative Trash Innovation and Exchange for UPcycling (TIE UP) Program, offering clients a 15% discount on custom-made furniture in exchange for their plastic waste materials.

Not content with personal success, Garcia has been committed to empowering others in her community. Junknot has provided training to 77 individuals, primarily women, in the processing of roped plastics. Since 2015, the company’s transformative efforts have upcycled a total of 2,093 kilos of plastic and other waste materials, leaving a tangible impact on the environment and the lives of many.

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