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The beauty queen of scrap

They say that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. It’s rare that people see the beauty in scrap, though. Anna Sueangam-Iam, Miss Thailand 2022, has demonstrated it’s not only possible – scrap can even be glamourous.

Miss Thailand wore an evening dress during the 71st Miss Universe competition made almost entirely of aluminium beverage pull tabs. She explains it’s not a publicity stunt, rather a tribute to her parents; her father is a garbage collector and her mother is a street sweeper.

The symbolic statement, which has earned Sueangam-Iam the title “The Garbage Beauty Queen”, was widely appreciated by both judges and audience members at the New Orleans event.

The dress was ‘upcycled’ by Swarovski, which decorated it with hundreds of diamonds. The young woman says this is meant to signal everyone’s potential, if only you look beyond the surface.

She urges: ‘Don’t get stuck with murky surroundings you were born into, but do believe you have the power to change your own life for the better.’

While Sueangam-Iam wasn’t crowned the winner (first place went to the USA), I think it’s fair to say she has the right to call herself Miss Green Universe. Our industry could use more confident and creative role models to put recycling on the map. Having Miss Thailand in our corner can’t hurt, can it?

It would be great to see a competition celebrating scrap-inspired costumes. One ending with a ceremony where the winner receives a tiara made of recycled metals. (The usual prize money  –roughly US$ 100 000 — could go towards improving recycling in emerging economies.)

People are visual creatures, after all. Perhaps if the majority of us learn to see recyclables in a different, more desirable context, society will finally understand the inherent value of scrap, and, with that, the importance of the circular economy.

Shine on, Miss Thailand!

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