Upcycling

Mar Mikhael venue gives junk a second chance

Greg Demarque | Executive

Whether it’s a plowing truck re-used as a makeshift bar stool, or a door frame re-used as a table, most of the furniture and objects used in Junkyard, Mario Haddad Junior’s hip bar-restaurant in Mar Mikhael, are creative reconceptualizations of junk items developed by local designer Rami el Khazen. The remaining items, such as the cutlery, napkins, placemats and some furniture were brought from restaurants that have shut down.

The idea of upcycling first came to Haddad during the summer of 2012 when he launched a pop up concept in the same spot which now houses Junkyard. Not wanting to invest too much financially into a concept that was only meant to be operational for a few months, Haddad chose instead to reuse and upcycle, furnishing the open air outlet with tables and chairs from his old restaurants which had closed down and re-using common household and junk items in creative ways for the decor.

The style received such positive feedback from customers that when Haddad decided to make Junkyard a permanent outlet, he stuck with the upcycling concept. Today, Junkyard is housed in 14 shipping containers opened up to create one space under a glass and iron dome. The concept of upcycling became even more creative with the installation of the permanent structure, and even events held at Junkyard today, such as the recent ABBA and Bob Marley nights, use upcycled or reused items to decorate.

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” quips Dana Alaywan, the marketing and communication manager at Hands On, the back office management services company behind Junkyard. She explains that the reuse of items from restaurants that have closed down helps contribute to the decrease of waste as well as the decrease of new items being produced in the long term.

Alaywan says that while upcycling and reusing are more affordable than buying readymade items, they require a lot of creativity, effort and research time. Nevertheless, Alaywan continues, once the team became accustomed to the idea of reusing, they got very involved in it and found it fun, incorporating upcycling in their daily routine both at home and at work. Customers as well, explains Alaywan, love the idea behind Junkyard, recommending it to their friends as an original and creative space to dine at.

Junkyard’s commitment to environmentally friendly practices does not stop at upcycling and reusing. The outlet also recycles its plastic, metal and paper waste through an agreement with Sukleen. Moreover, it is looking into investing in a machine that would compost food waste into fertilizer. “If we do manage to buy the machine, we would ideally like to place it in the parking lot for people to see and also to encourage our surrounding community to participate by putting in their own food waste. This way we would not only reduce the food waste generated by us and our community, but we would also benefit farmers by providing them with the fertilizer,” enthuses Alaywan, adding that they are currently trying to identify a sponsor, since, at an average cost of 23,000 euros, the machine is not cheap.

“Every little action towards environmental friendly practices from each one of us matters – that is how change happens,” concludes Alaywan, adding that Junkyard was an ecofriendly outlet even before the waste crisis in Lebanon broke out, and will continue to be so in the future.

Nabila Rahhal

Nabila is Executive's hospitality, tourism and retail editor. She also covers other topics she's interested in such as education and mental health. Prior to joining Executive, she worked as a teacher for eight years in Beirut. Nabila holds a Masters in Educational Psychology from the American University of Beirut.

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