Ukrainian brand Re-beau makes accessories from used plastic, promotes recycling
Transforming vinyl records into earrings, plastic shampoo bottles into brooches and bottle caps into pedants — the Kyivbased brand Re-beau has found the key to make recycling not only good for the environment, but also fashionable.
Launched in April 2018, the brand has already recycled up to 10 kilograms of plastic to create its stylish accessories and has sold nearly 150 of its items to the customers from all over Ukraine. Apart from that, several months after its establishment, Re-beau participated at Ukrainian Fashion Week, presenting its first collection of earings made from used plastic.
Maria Sorokina, 27, the founder of Re-beau, says that the idea of her brand is not to recycle as much as possible, but to show people why plastic is a danger to the environment, and why people should reduce the amount of it they use in their everyday lives.
“Plastic is alien to the world, as it is an absolutely synthetic material that was invented by humans,” Sorokina told the Kyiv Post.
“So the pros and cons of this material are that it is durable, and if it is not recycled or disposed of, it takes a very long time to decompose, therefore contaminating water and soil,” she said.
Sorokina says the name of the brand means “responsible beauty” as she believes that the current situation with the environment should push people towards responsible consumption, upcycling and recycling materials.
“It has become possible to follow fashion and, at the same time, to buy goods made by brands that do not pollute the environment, but rather try to make it cleaner,” Sorokina says.
Re-beau currently offers nearly eight types of earrings, each of a different shape and color, as well as four types of brooches, and is about to launch the production of pendants and necklaces made from recycled plastic. All of the items are available for pre-order, with prices ranging from Hr 100–300.
Other than that, Sorokina recently announced the establishment of “Wasted Valued,” an
online store, where she plans to sell only recycled and upcycled products, including accessories, home decor and souvenirs.
“I want tourists to be able to bring something fun, beautiful and eco-friendly back from Kyiv,” Sorokina says.
Having left her hometown in Donetsk Oblast in 2014 because of Russia’s war on Ukraine, Sorokina moved first to Kropyvnytskyi, a city 330 kilometers south of Kyiv, and then to Ukraine’s capital, where she started to sort her garbage, and noticed the huge amount of plastic bottles and packaging she put into the trash bin.
“I thought it would be great to show that this material (plastic) can be recycled, and thus used in the economy again,” Sorokina says.
Sorokina says she was inspired by the saying “trash is treasure,” and a year before establishing her brand, she experimented with melting waste plastic herself, in order to explore the process and how the material reacted.
Eventually, Sorokina found a place she could transform into a workshop, bought all the equipment needed to melt the plastic safely, and created her first eco-friendly accessories — a pair of earrings in the shape of raindrops.
Sorokina says, she picked a raindrop shape for a reason, as she believes that all the small steps people take towards making the environment cleaner are similar to “drops in the ocean.”
“But ultimately, the ocean consists of drops, and our every action leads to what this ocean will be in the future,” Sorokina says.
Nowadays, the raindrop earrings, which come in different colors, are one of the most popular products offered by Re-beau. But the brand also offers earrings in the shape of the lightning flashes, semicircles and other geometrical forms, as well as brooches in shapes of unicorns and tree leaves.
Re-beau currently cooperates with three freelancers, who help Sorokina produce the accessories. Sorokina says that the whole process of melting plastic is fast and takes only about two hours. However, she can spend hours looking for the right plastic to recycle, as not all types are completely safe for recycling.
Sorokina says she does not add any colorings to the plastic, as they may contain toxins. Instead, she “hunts” for plastic bottles, caps and vinyl records that match the color she needs.
With the establishment of the “No Waste Ukraine” recycling stations, which accept plastic, metal, wood, glass, clothes and paper, Sorokina’s work has become much easier, as she can easily find colorful bottles and other plastic goods there.
Sorokina, who is a strong sup- porter of a “green lifestyle” emphasizes on the importance of sorting waste, pointing out that Ukraine still does not have an effective waste management.
“In this regard, the mentality of Ukrainians does not really differ from Europeans or Americans. If in European countries there were no conditions and legislation on waste sorting, people wouldn’t sort their waste either,” Sorokina says.
Sorokina believes that the authorities should increase garbage disposal tariffs or impose fines on those who fail to sort their garbage, therefore motivating the population to do it.
“Only clear rules, which are set out in the law, can motivate the population to sort their garbage,” Sorokina says.
That would make Sorokina’s job a lot easier, while helping the environment as well.
And while Re-beau’s products only recycle a small part of the city’s plastic waste, “the more brands that create goods from recycled materials, the better it becomes for the environment,” Sorokina says. ■
Maria Sorokina, the founder of Kyiv-based brand Re-beau, which makes accessories out of recycled plastic, poses for a photograph in Kyiv on March 13, 2019. Sorokina holds a vinyl record, which she used as a material to create the earrings she is wearing. (Oleg Petrasiuk)