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Refuse: Trash to Treasure

Who says social responsibility can't be fashionable? Yara Yassin and Rania Refai prove that you can adopt a cause or two and create something beautiful out of it with their bags made out of recycled bags…

It seems like we are finally catching on to this whole recycling, saving the environment, thinking about the earth thing in Egypt – though you still see arms stuck out of windows throwing out the entire contents of their car on the street. However, there are some people who are really doing their part in being good, earth-saving humans, and at the same time, making insanely cool, super funky, and very unique products, bless 'em.

Refuse is one such brand – they design seriously awesome, unique, and environmentally responsible bags out of recycled plastic bags. Bags made out of other bags – what perfect symmetry.

Founded by Yara Yassin and Rania Refei, they were inspired by a workshop they took in Berlin. During their semester abroad in Germany, the two were taught how to upcycle plastic bags, and "decided that we needed to develop it from a DIY project to an actual company – we felt the need in Egypt for more initiatives and designers to help produce stuff out of the waste we were producing," Yassin explains.

They started out by using their own plastic bags to do it, but as the project grew, people started volunteering their bags, and now they have several collection points around Cairo when they're short on bags, like Ice Cairo, or they contact the Zabbaleen community when they have particularly big orders. The girls struggled at the start, having to design the whole production process.

"A lot of artisans said no because it's a new concept. They thought the plastic would ruin their machine," Yassin explains. But someone finally took the risk, it worked, and eventually the brand worked out a system for creating the pieces. The girls work with Nebny, a local NGO who puts them in touch with Syrian refugees, women who work from home to turn the bags into sheets, almost like swaths of fabric, which Yassin and Refei then use to create the patchwork patterns for the bags.

The bags' aesthetic has a cool, careless feel – bed-head in bag form, an eclectic medley of colours and patterns that are a far cry from their original source. A mix between collage and patchwork, because of the nature of the material used, no two pieces ever look alike, and the outcome is never a sure thing. "It's a sort of patchwork that we do, and we arrange the stuff a certain way while we're designing the bags, but the end result is always surprising!" Yassin tells us.

The bags also come in different forms, from clutches to cross-body bags, oversized totes and even a backpack that hipsters would pretend not to be excited over. "We produce so much waste as a nation so we're just trying to reuse it in a cool way, and make a positive impact," Yassin says. Well done guys. You've put the rest of us to shame.

You can check out their Facebook page here or follow them on Instagram @refuse_official.