Walang sayang!: The art of turning trash into sustainable treasures

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By Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman

A BUSH fire in California ignited Pedro “Pete” Delantar’s passion to save what is left of Mother Earth one twig, branch, and root at a time.

PRODUCTS from the Nature’s Legacy are made from scraps leaves, twigs and seeds.

He was traveling in the US when he witnessed how everything we have is fleeting. When he returned to his hometown in Compostela, Cebu, he saved, preserved, and recycled the twigs and branches he collected and turned them into environment-friendly furniture that last for 10 to 15 years.

“There’s so much natural scrap around us, which is vulnerable to a rapid fire that may be caused by a cigar or camping. We anticipated [it might happen here] so we cleaned our surroundings. We came up with mounds of scraps. We researched how we could recycle them,” he said.

This was how Naturescast was born. With the help of his wife, Cathy, who assisted him in his research, they learned that scrap twigs and branches, among others, could be compressed and molded into something chic and classy.

One of his creations brought him a international recognition. He represented the Philippines and won the top prize at the recently concluded 43rd International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva, Switzerland. There he bested other 800 top innovators with a piece made from scrap twigs, leaves and seeds. The output material can be transformed into a vase, chair, wall art, or acoustic tile.

He said his winning green innovation epitomized the country. “My entry represented the Philippines. It highlights our tropical country and our artistic skills in turning trash into treasure. The judges saw its simplicity. It is practical and eco-friendly,” he said.

Before flying to Switzerland and bagging the prize, he had already won the Outstanding Invention award at the Department of Science and Technology’s National Invention Contest and Exhibit last year. There he bested 831 local entries whichled to the invitation by the World Intellectual Property Organization to compete in Switzerland.

“I get inspiration from nature — in any thing around us that have forms, shapes, colors, and textures, which inspires me to make products,” he said.

PRODUCTS from the Nature’s Legacy are made from scraps leaves, twigs and seeds.

Mr. Delantar has always been into conserving natural materials. Back in 1996, he founded Nature Legacy, a company that recycled and up-cycled rattan into chairs. But competition was steep — Indonesia, Thailand, and other Asian neighbors are into the same business. He decided to turn to woodcarving — and then he saw the bush fire in America. This inspired him to create the labels Naturescast (items made from recycled twigs, seeds, branches, leaves), Stonecast (from recycled limestone from quarrying), and Nucast (from recycled paper).

Working on Nucast, he and his wife discovered their latest innovation, which they call G-Skin. It is made from recycled paper that is molded to resemble bamboo, leather, crocodile skin, or cement.

Prudently, Mr. Delantar has patented all his labels here, in Europe, and in the US to detter copycats. He said there is widespread counterfeiting among his contemporaries in Cebu. He said it is okay to copy 20% of a design, as long as you change the remaining 80%. Some, however, blatantly copy the entire design. “They (competitors) don’t have time to research [for new designs, so they copy]. They may be cheaper but they won’t last,” he said.

The Nature’s Legacy showroom in Makati is a treasure trove of innovative and sustainable home decor and furniture. There is an intricate braid of recycled paper that has been turn into a vase; ground scrap limestone has been made into jars of all sizes and shapes; and then there is a banca-shaped table décor which was given to non-winning participants in the 2011 Oscars.

In 2012, together with his son Carlo, they dabbled in fashion accessories under the brand Floreia.

Now exported to 28 countries, the label highlights modern necklaces and bangles made from botanical wastes and paper scrap. Among their local clients are newscasters Karen Davila and Ces Drilon.

Nature’s Legacy reaches far and wide, exporting items to Japan, Greece, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and the US, among others. It supplies items to Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel in the US. It also ships to Itokin, one of Japan’s biggest department store chains. In the Philippines, Zalora, Rustan’s, and SM’s Kultura, are among its clients. The local market however makes up only 10% of the business. “It depends on the purchasing power of the Filipinos,” said Mr. Delantar. Also, he added, the furniture sizes are big and US standard — not compatible with a typical Filipino home. But he said the company is doubling its efforts to market its goods locally.

The prices range from P200 for a candleholder to P35,000 for a chair made from mango seeds which made an appearance in the celebrity lounge of the 2011 Grammy Awards.

He is open to working with other scrap materials like plastic cups and straw, he said.

“My invention is simple yet practical. I wish every Filipino would be encouraged to invent something even out of nothing… from the things we take for granted or considered as scrap, castaway, or of no value. We must keep looking. Keep experimenting,” he said.


Main photo: Pedro “Pete” Delantar sits amongst some of his products