SEP 07, 2016 6:33 AM PDT

Refugees recycle: boats to bags

Most any situation can call for innovation. Twenty-four-year-old Amsterdam native Floor Nagler took that call.

Earlier this year, Nagler had been volunteering on the Greek island of Lesbos to help refugees disembark from boats upon their arrival to Europe. During this process, she noticed that many people lost theirs bags along the route. She also noticed that the boats and life jackets carrying people over to safety were often discarded along the beaches, and that these materials were piling up.

The textile student saw a problem and a solution. "I saw the excessive amount of material that's left behind on the beaches," Nagler told Radio Free Europe, "and me, as a maker, I was of course extremely inspired to design a bag that's put together with the least effort."

She returned to Amsterdam with over 40 pounds of boat material and teamed up fellow Dutch artist Didi Aaslund, 27, to figure out what could be done. They came up with a napsack that could be constructed using only a pair of scissors, punch pliers, and a rivet gun, a tool that holds together metal fasteners. The upcycled bags look like waterproof, military-grade rucksacks, with straps from life vests closing them shut. Each costs around $3 to make.

Nagler and Aaslund, along with other volunteers held workshops to teach the refugees how to make their own sacks. The sense of being able to make something of their own to keep was inspiring to many people, especially those who still had a long way to go on their journeys.

Although Raida Matar, a 13-year-old Yazidi refugee from Sinjar in Iraq, didn’t understand the English directions, she learned to make her own bag by watching how to punch holes in forest-green boat fabric and to fasten the seams together with rivets. "We made the bag ourselves," she says. "And we came over in boats like this."
Volunteers in Lesbos. Photo: It Works
Not only are the bags reducing waste but they are meeting the needs of the refugees and migrants who arrive with little to begin their long journeys through Europe carrying their belongings on their back. Nagler and Aaslund call their idea It Works, to reflect a pragmatic approach to a bag created by and for migrants. Their project is part of Oddysea, a new Greek organization that aims to make bags and wallets out of discarded boats and vests, and to sell the finished products to benefit migrants. Talk about an environmental innovation!

Sources: Mashable, The Huffington Post, Radio Free Europe, Tech Insider
About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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