Nothing Wasted Here.
The New Way to Sustainability
BOPE is an upcycled plastic waste product brand founded by couple Pemika Sukeeta and Supakrit Tarasri. “We started our business in a junkshop, but we didn’t know enough. We found we couldn’t compete with other big companies, and that plastic wastes were contaminated and could not be reused. In the end, we decided to apply all the knowledge and ability we could muster to create new value in all that waste.”
"The patterns in our products are caused by the flow of plastic pieces that do not completely blend together, making each piece unique and irreplaceable."
Eight years ago, BOPE’s first step began with research, during which they discovered that upcycling was interesting and might provide a good solution.
“We went through Dave Hakkens, the Dutchman who founded Precious Plastic, an online community about processing plastics. He was working on a small machine that could turn plastics into pieces, which I thought might be suitable for our small business. After we got a blueprint from him, we successfully built a prototype. It took a year learning how to create products that could be sold.”
The brand BOPE (BOPE) comes from Pemika’s nickname ‘Bo’, a very common Thai nickname, so friends call her by her nickname followed by part of her real name. The idea was to make products that were portable and inexpensive, so their first products were coasters, which they began selling on the Chiang Mai Walking Street. Foreigners already liked upcycled products, but Thai people did not know much about them and took much longer to understand what they were about.
“The materials used are 100 percent recycled plastics, such as bottle caps, buckets and unused basins. First, we send waste items to the plastic crusher to be shredded into flakes. There, they are cleaned, separated, color graded, and then brought back to the upcycling process. The small plastic pieces are then put into our own upcycling machine, where they melt. The molten plastic is then injected into a mold, where it cools down before being removed and polished. The difficulty depends on the size and form of the product. A small piece like a coaster is not complicated and takes a short time to melt. The white, red, yellow, blue, black, and green colors of the product are the real colors of the original plastic. The patterns in our products are caused by the flow of plastic pieces that do not completely blend together, making each piece unique and irreplaceable.”
To the World
Dutch Design Week 2017 made BOPE famous. Design companies from countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan became interested. BOPE’s products were becoming more and more diverse, whether souvenirs, jewelry, bags, furniture, plaques, medals
or fashion items. Every piece was designed to be both artistic and practical.
“Our products were divided into BOPE-designed Products and made-to-order products. Part of our inspiration comes from
our customers, whose recommendations help us develop products with designs that can fit with any lifestyle and yet still be unique. Fortunately, our customers understand our production process and can accept the higher cost involved, even though the materials we use originally come from plastic waste. The machines, skilled labor, time and experience we have accumulated over time are part of the value we bring to our products. Each piece is handcrafted and created by human hand, so not everything
can be perfect.”
Change is Opportunity
Pemika said that BOPE was also affected by the COVID-19 pandemic because most customers are foreigners. However, they have gained more Thai corporate customers and brands in recent times. Part of the growth has come from online marketing,
by sharing stories and building brand recognition on social media including Facebook and Instagram. The latest colorful Macaw parrot, for example, received enormous attention after being featured on the wall of Café Amazon, a well-known coffee shop franchise. This led them to increasingly target the Thai market.
“Before the pandemic, we worked with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) at many trade fairs. Now, several schools
in Bangkok and the south are interested in taking upcycling as a learning activity for students and have asked us to send learning kits and share knowledge with teachers. We think this is a good thing for the younger generation, who not only learn new things but also cultivate greater environmental awareness.”
The next goal of BOPE is to increase production capacity for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), while at the same time creating new products by participating in global competitions and building up a more substantial market in things
like furniture products.
“Right now, we are developing a colorful chair, which we have already exhibited in Taiwan. This is a large product, so it takes up to a day and a half to create. We designed it so that it can be disassembled and conveniently packed in a box for easy transport. Since it is plastic, it will not decompose, which is exactly why we need to recycle plastic waste. One person uses at least 1kg of plastic a day on average. It’s hard to avoid using plastic. There’s so much trash and there isn’t enough space to put it.”
Pemika told us about another well-known product range of theirs, which are their bags made of soft plastics, be they shoulder bags or wallets. With their unique colors and patterns, they have become popular with Thais, especially among younger generations who are concerned about the environment.
“For us, crafting involves the skill to make things with our hands, which requires lots of strength and energy. Even though a product may not be 100 percent perfect, we put in 100 percent in terms of intention, beauty and identity. It is craftsmanship that differentiates us and gives our products value compared
with the mass-produced industrial products that are all the same.”
To help keep our world sustainable, BOPE will continue to develop and turn trash into things of value while at the same time helping reduce the burden that our plastic waste places on the environment.