Random Acts of Reuse in Upper Mustang, Nepal

We’ve come to call Upper Mustang “The Land of Reuse” because few things are consumed and then simply thrown away, except for candy wrappers, plastic packaging like biscuit wrappers, ramen noodle packets, and plastic bags holding washing powder. These, sadly, are found underfoot in nearly every village.

Kagbeni in June, Photo: Liesl Clark

Plastic Packaging Used for Irrigation:

But some plastics in Upper Mustang are put to use in innovative ways. Take the plastic lining for water diversion in irrigation ditches. Rather than using jute sacks filled with sand, a readily available material is plastic packaging and bags layered with mud, unwanted clothing and textiles to create an impermeable dam for irrigation ditches. The plastics, unfortunately, often break free and are carried downstream into the Kali Gandaki River where all water flows.

Irrigation Plastics and Textiles in Tsarang, Photo: Liesl Clark

Potato Sack Turned Horse Feed-Bucket:

One of the most innovative Mustang-style trash hacks is the method by which local horses are fed their grain. Potato sacks made of woven plastic are sewn into a configuration that fits easily around a horse’s muzzle, with long string handles that hang over the horses’ ears. Corn is measured out and put in the potato-sack-turned-feed-bag, the chaff blown by hand from the corn to prevent the horse from inhaling it in the bag, and the bag is hung from the horse’s ears: a muzzle feeder that’s a brilliant light-weight way to feed one’s horses while traveling. No need for heavy buckets. Whether on-the-go or at home, these muzzle feed bags are the preferred feeding bucket for Mustang equines.

Potato or Rice Sack turned Feed Sack, Photo: Liesl Clark

When one becomes worn out and a hole develops, they’re quickly patched up, as this one was patched by a talented tailor friend in the village of Samdzong, utilizing his son’s worn out sweat pants.

Feedsack Repair, Photo: Liesl Clark

Feedsack Repair Finished, Photo: Liesl Clark

I grew up with horses and we went through plenty of buckets, some made of PVC and plastic which when broken became yet another hefty item in the landfill. The potato/rice sacks turned into horse feed bags is one of the best reuses I’ve ever seen in a remote part of the world that could easily be adopted world-wide!

Planted Pots in Buckets, Paint Cans and Tins:

Anything that is a receptacle is used in Mustang until it can no longer hold anything, disintegrated by sun and wind to the point of uselessness. In the topmost photo of planters, below, you’ll see a plastic bucket that developed a crack and was then sewn back together with plastic twine. Potted flowering succulents are such a valuable addition of organic color to a household, taking the time to repair that heavy-duty plastic pot is clearly worth the effort. If we treated our own plastic pots and buckets the same way, there’d be a significant reduction in the production of these plastics in the first place, and a renewed ethic which the Lobas, the people of Upper Mustang, haven’t lost, of repairing everything again and again until its useful life is truly over. Now that’s reuse!

A Cracked Plastic Pot Deserves Repair in Tsarang, Photo: Liesl Clark

Paint Cans and Buckets Make Perfect Succulent Planters, Photo: Liesl Clark

Even Paint Cans Add Flowery Color to a Household, Photo: Liesl Clark

Inspired by the planters you see here in Mustang? Find some ideas you can use at home through our Trash Backwards app. Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find:

Click Through to See Everyday Items Turned Into Planters at Trash Backwards

Click Through to See Everyday Items Turned Into Planters at Trash Backwards

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Categories: DIY, Fix It, Reduce Your Use, Repurpose and Reuse, Trash Pile - All Our Stuff


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6 Comments on “Random Acts of Reuse in Upper Mustang, Nepal”

  1. July 16, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

    I too had horses and wish that I’d thought of this feed bag idea! We had metal bin feeders attached to the fence, which are probably rusting away in the landfill near Boulder right now. Bummer, because we used to bring feed to the barn in burlap sacks. Live and learn.

  2. November 16, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    Hmm I chose plastic bags, then the app showed me images that did not all include reuse of plastic bags (it included reused denim for example). If I pick a medium to reuse, I think all the suggestions should include at least some percentage of the original item.

    • Liesl Clark
      November 16, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

      Hi BraidsAndBeads,
      I’m sorry you had trouble while using our app. When I type in “Plastic Bags,” and choose that item from our drop-down menu and click on “Reuse It,” I only get reuse ideas that include plastic bags. Do you mind telling us which browser you’re using so we can try to get to the bottom of this bug? This is how we’ll improve our tool for reuse. We’ve worked hard to make results appear as they should, related to items directly, so we completely agree. The only time you should see unrelated item solutions grouped together is in our “Get Inspired” area, where things are organized by lifestyle category.

      If you’d like to help us solve the problem, feel free to email us at info@trashbackwards.com as we’d love to ask you some questions to help us fix this so it doesn’t happen again. Thank you for your feedback!
      — Liesl at Trash Backwards

      • Liesl Clark
        November 16, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

        OK, now upon further consideration I see where the confusion is! You typed in “Plastic Bags” into the search box but didn’t choose “Get Rid of It” or “Reuse It.” You chose “Get Inspired,” which is not a way for people to search by item. It’s just a browsing mode for lifestyle categories. So, we need to clarify that if someone wants to search by item they have to choose “Get Rid of It” or “Reuse It.” And if someone wants to browse for ideas on all items but by lifestyle category, then they click on “Get Inspired.” I hope this helps and that you’ll try our tool again!

  3. November 16, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    Lots of jewelry making ideas using plastic bags & bottles, soda can pop tops etc. This is reuse on a small scale but it does help raise awareness.

    • Liesl Clark
      November 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

      Thanks, BraidsAndBeads! Please feel free to share your own reuse ideas and any large-scale reuse solutions individuals can participate in through our crowd-sourcing page. We’re counting on concerned and informed people like you to help improve the options we connect people to through the power of crowd-sourcing.
      — Liesl

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