Episode 22: Plastic, Practical Steps to be the Solution and not the Problem

One Big Island artist and business owner is calling on consumers to “put her out of business!” While an unusual request, it’s one that would reflect a major victory for Hawaii communities and beyond. Self proclaimed mad-scientist/artist Mattie Mae Larson hopes that one day, she will run out of the resources the products she sells are made from— rubbish.

Mattie has a passion for transforming trash into treasure, an idea that arose from a childhood spent watching her parents repurpose everything and from witnessing the phenomena of pollution firsthand. Mattie grew up playing “king of the plastic mountain” down on remote South Point beaches, not realizing its impact until a college environmental science class unearthed the facts. She was struck by how damaging those hills and expanses of trash really were, and motivated to action. Several years later, toilet paper plastic wrappings are now being turned into versatile pouches; discarded fishing ropes, nets and rubber into keychains and jewelry.

Upcycle Hawaii, where gathered and donated plastic and marine debris is melted down into a variety of colorful products, began with an old-school iron and one woman’s change of mindset to look at trash and see potential beauty. Leaving a full-time job and starting a business was undoubtedly a risk for Mattie, but five years in, she has no regrets. 12,000 square feet of plastic has already been diverted from the landfill over the past two years, and Mattie’s creativity is fostering awareness and opening the door to conversations surrounding personal and community-wide change. While discarded plastics and other non-biodegradable materials won’t be in short supply anytime soon, Mattie is determined to keep on unlocking their potential and promoting conscious consumerism and lifestyle change. “We have more power as consumers than we give ourselves credit for.”

Visit www.upcyclehi.com to check out these awesome trash-to-treasure products and to learn more about Mattie and her mission. You can also donate to her cause by searching Upcycle Hawaii on gofundme.com.


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