Eui-hyun Byun, CEO of Usisan produces dolls and t-shirts from plastic waste
"In 2050, whales may fly because there would be too of plastic in the sea. Look at the whale's face. How sad."
Eui-hyun Byun, CEO of Usisan, said this while showing the picture 'Whale Flying in the Sky' on the back of his sweatshirt. It was a picture of two whales playing freely in the light purple sky, but when I looked closely, the whale had sad eyes. Byun was bitterly talking about the World Economic Forum report that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. He was wearing a t-shirt made of yarn extracted from plastic discarded in the sea. Ms. Byeon, who looks like an environmental activist, leads Wuxi Mountain, an eco-friendly social enterprise that does waste plastic upcycling. Woo Shi-san was founded in 2015 by CEO Byun as a company that makes dolls, eco-bags, and T-shirts using waste plastics from ships moored at Ulsan Port.
The start was a small cafe. Byun quit the company he worked at five years ago and suddenly became a social worker. This is because they want to do something meaningful to society. I worked at an elderly facility for one year, met a local senior, and decided to start a business after seeing those who had difficulties because they could not find a place to find employment even after training in baristas. I submitted a business plan to the 'Social Economy Start-up Team Fostering Support Project' of Nam-gu, Ulsan and SK Ulsan Complex, and was selected for the start-up team and received a fund of 25 million won. The money opened a gallery cafe in Ulsan where three elderly baristas work. The cafe became a cultural space more than a place to drink coffee due to the donation of talents such as painting, magic, and performance. This is November 2015. The relationship with Whales happened to happen at a café promotion event. Participated in various events and festivals in Ulsan, while participating in a cafe, they participated in the 'Whale Festival' in 2016. At the Whale Festival, they sold whales made from seashells to customers who bought coffee because they only sell coffee. The staff of Nam-gu Office in Ulsan, who noticed this, first suggested, 'Let's make a whale souvenir that represents Ulsan'. This is because there were no souvenirs related to whales in Jangsaengpo, Ulsan, a special area of whale culture. Representative Byun signed an agreement with Nam-gu, Ulsan for 'Village Happiness' and planned and produced cultural contents and souvenirs to fill Jang Saeng-po's 'Whale Culture Village'. Then two years ago, Yuri of idol group Girl's Day from Ulsan posted a picture of Wooshinsa's whale tumbler on social network service (SNS) and became famous nationwide. Thanks to this, Tumbler was supplied to Cheong Wa Dae and Mirae Asset Daewoo, and was selected as a social enterprise supported by SK Innovation in the same year. The number of employees has also increased to 10. It was only a year ago that the waste plastic was upcycled to create a whale doll. "At the end of 2018, a whale that died after eating plastic became a hot topic. Thanks to the whale, the company grew, and I thought it was time for us to do something for the whale." His vague thoughts were materialized after the 'Sea Day' event held in Ulsan in May last year. The Ulsan Port Corporation, Ulsan Regional Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Office, SK Energy, the United Nations Environmental Planning Korea Association, and Wu Shi-san, who gathered together at the same day, discussed the theme of 'Reducing Marine Plastics' and decided to conduct a 'Ship Waste Plastic Upcycling Project'. The idea is to collect plastics from 90 ships a day and go upcycle to Ulsan Port. At the time, all the plastic from the ship was incinerated. "We are the first in the world to segregate and upcycle the plastics entering the port without incineration," said Byun. Byun's dream is to make a series of animal dolls that suffer from environmental pollution, such as sea turtles, seahorses, and seals, as well as whale plastic. Sea turtles will be released as early as July. Companies that want to collect waste diseases such as Korea East-West Power are continuously emerging. He said, "I want to expand the small movement of Ulsan Port to not only domestic ports such as Busan Port and Incheong Port but also to ports worldwide. With the hope of returning the ghost whales off the coast of Ulsan, we will continue to make dolls so that the whales will not suffer from plastic."
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