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Hammering Out Environmental Pollution and Poverty Issues

New startup by The Borneo Institute sees wood waste problem as small solution to environmental and social challenges

KOTA KINABALU: Magic Stone, a fledgling local startup, has set up a woodworking workshop to hammer out pollution issue while at the same provide income opportunities for the community.

Based in Kg Putaton, Inobong in Penampang, the social enterprise turns all kinds of waste wood into various items of value. It is driven toward achieving a bigger conservation and sustainable consumption agenda.

“We may not realise it but there’s so much waste wood around us that would end up either being burnt or taken to the landfill. This contributes to an environmental burden.

“We may not even be aware it is a problem. We tell ourselves where’s the harm in burning pieces of waste wood we call rubbish in the backyard. But imagine hundreds and thousands of people do it on a daily basis,” says the startup’s spokesperson, Leonard Alaza, who is a journalist and social entrepreneur.

One article puts the problem in perspective when it highlighted how in the US alone, there were around two billion pallets in circulation and the vast majority of them were wooden and were replaceable every year.

It noted that because pallets were so extensively used, people needed to understand their impact on the environment. Though many of the wood pallets were being re-purposed or reused, the ones that were not ended up in landfills where they had a noticeable environmental impact.

The article also noted that wood products take, on average, thirteen years to decompose in a landfill. While it is true that wood is biodegradable, the issue is that landfills can keep getting bigger as people continue to generate waste, and they are often overfilled. Because of this, products in landfills – even biodegradable ones like wood and paper – are not put in proper conditions to decompose.

And wood pallets are just one of the many wood products. Others include tree trunks, tree branches and old furniture.

A man making a bird house using waste wood at Magic Stone workshop. He learns the skill from watching Youtube tutorial videos.

What Magic Stone, which is a product of the upcoming local think-and-do-tank, The Borneo Institute, is doing to help address this issue is to provide the best solution it can think of for an end-to-life option for wood waste. Though it is not as clear cut, it feels that something practical has to be done.

The Magic Stone workshop.

“What we do is basically getting hold of any waste wood we can find and turn them into all kinds of things we can use every day.

“While on one hand we try to help address an environmental issue, on the other is that we hope by doing this we would be able to help create opportunities for the community.

“Though we’re a very new and small outfit, we strive to contribute toward the global efforts in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2030,” he explains.

Together with The Borneo Institute, Magic Stone aims to work on a number of specific global goals that include no poverty, zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, decent work and economic growth, sustainable communities and responsible consumption and production.

As a think-tank, The Borneo Institute provides the research work on Magic Stone and one of its first studies is on the economic relationship between the environment and people’s livelihood.

A case in point involves a few individuals who are relatively marginalized and poor and have been creating their own opportunities at the Magic Stone woodworking workshop.

“We’re looking at the shared values we can create as well as the social and environmental impacts. Anyone who is interested in what we’re doing is free to come to Magic Stone. After all, we’re building a community and a movement,” adds Leonard.

Magic Stone wears a social enterprise hat as it builds itself as a business that makes profits to be re-invested on influencing a positive social change and a more sustainable development.

Currently, there has been a significant rise of social entrepreneurship movement around the world especially now in the face of so many socio-economic and political challenges.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals

“Magic Stone is just a small community-based set up and certainly we won’t solve the big and complex problem of pollution that the world is struggling with today. But we want to make a bold statement conserving nature is the way to go to a more sustainable economy and life. 

“Hopefully, what we do especially through our case studies and evidence-based research we would be able to contribute toward a change in lifestyles, choices that people make and policies someday. 

“In the mean time, we’ll continue to make exciting stuffs from wood wastes we can find. Hopefully, it’ll help make a difference in reducing environmental burden and at the same time providing alternative income to anyone who needs it.

“We understand of course that woodworking and carpentry is not for everyone. But at Magic Stone, we believe that there’s no harm in learning something new. And when we’re in a situation in life when we have limited options, picking up a new skill may no longer be a matter of choice”

Leonard Alaza

Featured photo by Anna Shvets, Pexels

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