With their country producing 4,000 tons of waste per day, and recycling less than 10 percent of it, green Lebanese designers Xavier Baghdadi and Lea Kradokian have their work cut out for them -- but no shortage of materials with which to craft their upcycled creations.
Baghdadi and Kradokian got their first taste of working with trash when they were invited by gallery owner Rania Choueiri to take part in a recycled art and design exhibition earlier this summer at L'Atelier Fanfreluche in Beirut's Mar Mikhail neighborhood.
The exhibit, "Trashy Treasures," featured furniture, accessories, sculpture, and art works by 18 different artists.
Trash is a major problem in Lebanon, where 40 percent of all garbage generated is consigned to "over 700 illegal and unsafe dump sites ... with a further 50 percent disposed of in legal but generally unsanitary landfills," according to a June 2012 article in the Daily Star. A separate piece in the well-regarded local newspaper described Lebanon as "a country with a lack of discernible environmental policy, only a handful of recycling points across the capital, and landfills overflowing onto public beaches."
Products That Merge Industrial And Traditional
Calling themselves "Junk Munkez," Baghdadi and Kradokian scoured junkyards across the city to find metal scrap for their designs. Old washing-machine drums, cleaned and painted, become colorful and sturdy stools -- with hidden storage space inside the drum's interior cavity -- in their "Knit-Knack" line, which Kradokian describes as "merging industrial and traditional."
"The drums' perforations serve as a matrix to knit various visuals ranging from rigid traditional geometric patterns to more organic, nature-inspired illustrations," she wrote in an email, adding that the stools incorporate recycled textiles and are all topped with bright cushions.
Designing With A Green Conscience
The stools, along with Junk Munkez's other line, a collection of playful planters made from scrapped car parts and kitchen utensils, are on sale at L'atelier, which has been a pioneer in exhibiting recycled art in Beirut. Kradokian said she and Baghdadi are in the process of creating their own website and continuing to design new products from trash.
"As a team we design with a green conscience, giving life to the lifeless heaps of Beirut's rising metal mountains, in hopes of pushing other Lebanese designers to think green as well," she wrote.