Upcycled wood carries heritage
As Yan says, abandoned wood is a precious resource. In Hong Kong, 380 tonnes of wood waste are thrown away every day, including waste from construction, wooden pallets and furniture, fallen trees and rattan. Unfortunately, only 0.4% of these materials are currently recycled. This motivated Yan to find better ways to make use of unwanted wood, and she eventually established “Cou Tou” in 2017. At this social enterprise, she designs and creates furniture by upcycling abandoned wood.
Today, “Cou Tou” collects most wood from waste stations and also receives donations from schools and individuals. Each piece of wood has its own story, linking individuals and community. “A tall Acacia confusa tree fell down in a school some years ago. At that time, the school asked a saw mill to cut the logs into lumber, which was then kept in the school’s storage room. Later, the school invited us to investigate how they could reuse the wood, so we decided to make a table for the library, while the offcuts were used by carpentry class students,” says Yan. The tree that once provided shelter for students has now been transformed, yet still keeps the students and the community company.”
Sometimes, stories of wood donations from individuals can be touching. “I’ve a student who learns woodcraft from me. He and his family are all Christians. When one of his family members passed away, his church was undergoing renovation, and a teak door was left over. So he asked us to make an urn box with the wood, as a remembrance,” explains Yan. Not only did the wood gain a new life: it was turned into something tangible that connects people across time and space. Yan stresses once again that such unwanted wood is not simply waste, but a treasure that can tell a moving story.