Metals are often melted at high temperatures to be moulded into other products during recycling. This process not only requires phenomenal amounts of energy, but also degrades the quality of the product.
Kowloon Motor Bus hopes to recycle parts from retired buses by turning them into useful products without having to apply such an energy-consuming process.
KMB donated more than 600 disused vehicle parts to the Hong Kong Design Institute for a project called 'From Seemingly Trash to Treasure'. The contributions allowed 20 second-year higher-diploma students in product design to breathe new life into the parts by creating 10 functional items.
The result: lamps, tables, chairs and even iPod speakers have been fashioned out of hand rails, engine parts and window panes.
The effort not only proves that it is possible to reduce the amount of energy needed to create new products from recycled materials, but also allows the sentimental value of old KMB buses to live on.
'There are limitless possibilities that students can work on with the parts provided,' institute lecturer Kelvin Kam said. 'We wanted students to come up with consumer products and not just sculptures.'
He believed that the challenge was greater in trying to create a product with a specific function. The project was a success because the students managed to save the parts from reaching the end of their 'product life cycle', he said.
During the project, students were faced with a truckload of bus parts. They tried to create usable objects while retaining the original shapes of their materials.
The assembly and technicality aspects proved challenging. Teams paired up with technicians to execute their designs.
One of the participants, Tracy Tam Chui-yi, 22, worked with a partner to create a floor lamp using railings for the top and stem, and part of a wheel as the base.
Tam took green living a step further by incorporating LED lights. In a creative twist, she also turned a bell button on the railing into the switch. The design was so well received that KMB is going to display the lamp in its offices.
Leung Sai-to, 21, transformed a row of four seats into a single-seater couch. He wanted to evoke feelings of nostalgia in families that often sat together in a row on KMB buses.
Leung Wai-ki, 18, used an entire bus window as the surface of her coffee table. She associated the design with relaxation, referring to many a glassy-eyed bus passenger gazing out of the window.
Buses are so much a part and parcel of everyday life that they are often taken for granted. The students said they were able to appreciate the bus company anew by the end of the project. They selected the parts not only for aesthetic and technical reasons, but also for the common experiences and emotions associated with Hongkongers, they said.
All the projects will be displayed at the design institute's graduates' show from Thursday until July 5, and at KMB offices afterwards.