Textiles 3 (2021)

Focus on bio plastics, changing social behaviour and recreating New Year decorations for a better Earth.


Plastic pollution in Cambodia is causing severe damage to the environment and people. 33,431 tones of plastic enters the ocean via the Mekong River (UNEP, 2020). Historically, Cambodians have traditionally used clay, woven leaves, and natural packaging materials that can be harmlessly tossed. The consumption behaviour is the same but the types of materials and modes of productions have changed. The Redesign Khmer New Year project utilizes a Textile Design material development and Experience Design approach to create a new range of KNY decorations that would not pollute the environment. Annual festive seasons like Christmas and Khmer New Year revolve around the heavy use of decorations. The décors have an essential role in creating a festive space. They possess an irreplaceable cultural and emotional significance for communities. However, they are often made unsustainably. It ends up in landfills, become litter, or are incinerated – all of which are catastrophic for the environment. The wellbeing of future generations is most at risk from these consequences. Despite the existence of eco-friendly decorations, they are unsuccessful with consumers due to their limited designs, high cost, and short supply. These attributes render the alternatives inaccessible for the low-income market, which compose a majority of Cambodia's population and globally. A sustainable lifestyle should not be a luxury. This project aims to prove Khmer New Year can still be celebrated without destroying the environmental wellbeing for the Cambodian youth, and that eco-friendly alternatives can be accessible. I made 3 types of decorations entirely made from biodegradable plastic (agar-based) and paper. Under normal weather conditions, the decorations can last for months. It is relatively waterproof, however that would hasten its decomposition. There are no surface finishes as that could compromise the eco-safe biodegradation.

The objectives for this project were:

Provide Khmer New Year celebrants with accessible sustainable decorations created within a circular life cycle, thereby redirecting plastic from entering the environment

Preserve the cultural and emotional experience of Khmer New Year: the design concepts aim to reduce anxieties associated with using new materials in a historical tradition

Acknowledgement of Country

UNSW School of Art & Design stands on an important place of learning and exchange first occupied by the Bidjigal and Gadigal peoples.

We acknowledge the Bidjigal and Gadigal peoples as the Traditional Custodians of the land that our students and staff share, create and operate on. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend this respect to all First Nations peoples across Australia. Sovereignty has never been ceded.