It's not uncommon to wrinkle your nose in disgust when passing by a loaded, smelly Sukleen container, or even a pile of trash dumped carelessly on public property. Over the weekend, this issue came to a head when Sukleen announced it was suspending trash collection in Beirut and Mount Lebanon because it could no longer access its main landfill in Naameh which was being blocked by activists.

On Sunday night, an agreement was reached allowing Sukleen to resume trash collection but regardless, when it comes to the environment, recycling and thinking "green," there's still much left to be done in Lebanon. One group of young Lebanese entrepreneurs is trying to combine the country's love for fashion and accessories with the re-appropriation of advertising billboards.

Waste is a fashion brand that takes a material called flex, a non-recyclable type of plastic used for billboards that is destined for eventual disposal, and sews it into a wide variety of unique items, including bags, furniture, aprons and other accessories.

Waste co-founders Waleed Jad and Marc Metni told the story behind this promising brand. “It all started as an experiment back in 2006,” says Waleed. “My friend Stephanie and I were fed up with those plastic grocery bags that people always carried around for personal use. We wanted to create a more fashionable substitute that was also eco-friendly. We used the flex from billboards to design our first feminine shopping bag. Stephanie used to carry it around all the time.”

After two years of almost daily use, the bag was still in good condition, and that was when the designers started to think big. Waleed teamed up with Marc, and they put together a team of talented artisans and designers and set up a studio in Bourj Hammoud.

“We first launched our products at the shops, 6:05 at Depechemode and Oddfish Boutique. We got amazing feedback and people really seemed to like it.” It wasn't just their forward concept that got people excited; it was the originality of every single design. The colors are light and summery, depending on the season, and themes often include an Oriental touch with Arabic letters printed over some of the pieces.

“Everything we do is handmade, so the consumers can feel they have a truly unique piece,” said Marc, adding, “and we never use the same banner twice.” Waste pretty much makes everybody a winner: consumers can buy original designs that practically last forever, the pieces are affordable, and you can play an active role in saving the environment while also feeding your inner fashionista.

To learn more about Waste, visit their Facebook page.

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