Eco-chicks spread message of kindness to environment

Members of an environmental group shows children how to turn trash into treasure.

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ABU DHABI // A group of children gathered on the Corniche yesterday to learn how to turn trash into treasure - or, at least, transform the pages of an old newspaper into gift bags and boxes, funny hats and stuffed creatures. The workshop was the first in a series to be organised by Eco-chicks, an all-female group dedicated to raising environmental awareness in the capital.

One volunteer, Simar Halwany, 32, is a Lebanese mother-of-two from Sharjah. She taught the children how to fold and stuff the old papers into bags, showing them how to make a cat and an octopus. "These are safe for kids and we encourage them to be creative," she said, watching as her five-year-old son, Zayd al Alaf, dabbed paint on a brown paper bag. Five women formed the Eco-chicks in September with the hope of educating residents of Abu Dhabi on environmental topics.

"We want to work with the younger generation in the community and it's about having fun," said Elham Monavari, 35, from Australia. "A newspaper is not waste and you can reuse it in many ways. We also want to show them where paper comes from from trees in the forest and the issues related to it, such as global warming." Natalie Suleiman, 22, a Jordanian account executive at an advertising agency in Abu Dhabi and an avid recycler, has just joined the group, which now numbers 10.

"We use a lot of paper in the office and I would tell my colleagues that we're killing a lot of trees," she said. "I take a lot of these papers home to have them recycled." In addition to distributing material outlining the life cycle of a newspaper - where it came from, how not to waste it and how to reuse it - the organisers also distributed brochures on the recycling project launched by the Centre of Waste Management in several areas of Abu Dhabi City and Al Ain.

The instructions for segregating waste from recyclable materials are written in Arabic, English and Filipino. "Community awareness is important to effectively reduce and recycle waste," said Tamer el Jouhari, a supervisor at the Centre of Waste Management. "We also call on the community to help our service providers in our recycling efforts." A tonne of recycled paper saved 13 trees, 2.5 barrels of oil, 31,780 litres of water, 4,100 kilowatt hours of electricity and four cubic metres of landfill space, the Eco-chicks said. Ms el Jouhari noted that recycling bins had been placed on the Corniche. "We see more and more involvement on waste issues."

Dubai and Sharjah both had recycling plants, now Abu Dhabi needed one, said Ms Monavari.