Lucy posing with her two bags. (L)

Durable, and environmental-friendly, Lucy Heng first encountered the method of weaving bags out of plastic packaging more than two years ago from her elder sister during one of her visits to her hometown, Malacca, Malaysia.

But she had only gotten serious months after when the priest of her church read the Pope’s letter during his sermon urging all Catholics to make concerted efforts to care for the environment, which is also God’s creation.

Lucy posing with her two bags.

“It sort of hit me in the head that I, too in my small ways, can contribute and care for the environment for future posterity,”said Lucy who was also concerned about the eight million tonnes of plastic choking the marine life. “I have read that a whopping 79 percent of plastic ends up in landfills, and 90 percent of plastic is not recycled.”

Henceforth, having a dual purpose to continue her journey, Lucy wanted to not only care for the environment but also to contribute 100 percent of the profits made to her church’s Building Fund.

Spending roughly around seven hours per day on making the bags, Lucy lamented: “Making the bags is a tedious and laborious task, so when people asked me how long it takes to make one, I cannot give a definitive answer because I might not have enough materials. To an extent, it also depends on inspiration, hinging on the materials available to me. Each design is painstakingly crafted!”

She also added her feelings of gratitude towards her small team of friends behind her: “They would help me go around coffee shops to collect plastic packaging bags such as rice bags, coffee bags, tea bags and others. So instead of throwing them into the landfill and most of this ending up in our oceans, I am making something I hope that is useful.”

Her friends also helped make the bags during their free time.

The process of making

Cut-off strip from the full body of the plastic package.

The process starts from after she has acquired the used plastic packaging bags. Then the bags would be sorted accordingly, based on the variety or type of packaging before washing and drying them.

Once she has has an idea, she would cut the plastics into many consistent ‘rectangle’ pieces before them folding into strips.

Lucy disclosed that she currently sells two bags of different sizes; the bigger one needing 542 consistent strips from 542 of the same plastic packaging bags to create the design that she wants. Meanwhile, the smaller bag needs 412 consistent strips.

Cut-off strips sorted out accordingly.

“It can be painstaking to fold and attach the strips as one wrong move can ruin the design of the whole bag. Thus, I need to be precise with everything even the length of the rectangles and strips!”

Nonetheless, there is not one repetitive design due to limited resources. And through the months of creating the extraordinary, Lucy’s bags have seen improvements with each bag being churned out.

“At the end of it, when I see the completed bag, I feel good that I have saved over 500 over pieces of plastic bags from ending up in our landfills and oceans and I am very happy about it!

“I hope the people who buy my bags see them as more than just bags. With hope that they appreciate not only the labor that goes into them, but truly see the value of keeping over 400-500 pieces of plastic bags from ending up in our oceans. “I hope they will be able to carry my bags with pride, knowing that they are contributing to a cause larger than us.”