My Order Menu The African Fabric Shop  Plastic & Paper Beads
+44 (0)1484 850629

Contact Us

Plastic & Paper Beads

Recycled plastic and paper beads

'Green is beautiful' with our fantastic array of multi-coloured beads, hand-made from recycled materials.

Our recycled plastic beads are made from old cassette boxes by an enterprising group of women in Kumasi, Ghana. Our recycled paper beads are from Kenya and Uganda. Both are great for creative beading and embellishing.

As for our miniature Maasai beaded collars: use your imagination!

Bead size and scale

As a visual clue to the size and scale of our beads, we use a Star beer cap in our bead images. Why Star? Because it's the major beer of Ghana where most of our beads are made. Also, on the buy pages, we indicate approximate bead dimensions in millimetres.

More: About recycled plastic beads

About recycled plastic beads

One thing about Africa that never ceases to amaze us is the ingenuity and creativity applied to making a living and feeding the family.

Take Amina and her neigbours: we affectionately call them 'the recycled plastic ladies'.

They live in a deprived area of Kumasi, Ghana's second city. Their families came to Kumasi in search of work in the 1960s from the Muslim north. In Kumasi - a Christian city - they couldn't buy traditional Muslim prayer beads. Their solution was to make their own out of melted, recycled plastic.

From that humble beginning, Amina and the ladies now operate a small but profitable business making and selling sticks and strings of recycled plastic beads.

Making recycled plastic beads

Amina and the ladies scour the neighbourhood for scraps of hard plastic.

Old cassette tapes and boxes are ideal. It must be hard plastic; unfortunately the plastic bottles that litter the city won't work.

Working outdoors for ventilation, the ladies melt the plastic in an iron skillet over a charcoal fire.

As the plastic melts it takes on the consistency of goo-ey, stretchy toffee.

They add a bit of dye to the plastic. Then, using a spatula tool, they scoop a small gob of plastic onto a stalk of dried elephant grass - the same material used to weave our fantastic Bolga baskets.

With a deft twist of the wrist, the gob of plastic is rolled up to form a bead on the stick.

It takes about four minutes to fill a stick with about forty recycled plastic beads. The plastic hardens very quickly. You can pull the beads off the sticks and use them or leave them on the sticks and put then in a vase.

What about the fumes?

Originally they worked outside their houses in the open air, where the wind blew any toxic fumes away. Eventually an NGO came on the scene, raised some money and built them a cement block building to work in. There, the fumes had nowhere to go. Another NGO bought and installed industrial fume hoods and extractor fans.

Sounds brilliant, except they forgot one thing: who pays for the electricity and maintenance to keep the fans running?

Today, the ladies are back outdoors in the wind and the building is used to store their materials and finished bead stock.

Magie Relph selecting recycled plastic beadsMagie with Amina and Banu selecting recycled plastic beads for The African Fabric Shop.
Scrap plastic for recycled beadsScrap plastic ready for melting into recycled plastic beads in Kumasi, Ghana.
Melting plastic for recycled plastic beadsMelting the plastic in an iron skillet over a charcoal fire.
Melting plastic for recycled plastic beadsRolling the plastic onto a stick of elephant grass to form a bead.
Sticks of recycled plastic beadsSticks of recycled plastic beads ready for market.
Recycled plastic bead making Kumasi GhanaAmina making beads from recycled plastic: Kumasi, Ghana
Multi-buy saving - Mix 'n' Match

Any 10 for the price of 9
Applies to all £2.35 packs of beads. Your discount will be applied automatically at the checkout.

Recycled Paper Bead Mix Round
image for Recycled Paper Bead Mix Round
Recycled Paper Bead Mix Long
image for Recycled Paper Bead Mix Long
Recycled Plastic Bead Mix
image for Recycled Plastic Bead Mix
Recycled Plastic Beads Earth
image for Recycled Plastic Beads Earth
Recycled Plastic Beads Olive Green/Red
image for Recycled Plastic Beads Olive Green/Red
Recycled Plastic Beads Red/Green/Cream
image for Recycled Plastic Beads Red/Green/Cream
Recycled Plastic Beads Green/Yellow
image for Recycled Plastic Beads Green/Yellow
Recycled Plastic Beads Red/White/Blue
image for Recycled Plastic Beads Red/White/Blue
Recycled Plastic Beads Dark Pink
image for Recycled Plastic Beads Dark Pink
Recycled Plastic Beads Beige
image for Recycled Plastic Beads Beige
Recycled Plastic Beads Yellow/Red
image for Recycled Plastic Beads Yellow/Red
Recycled Plastic Beads Pink/Red
image for Recycled Plastic Beads Pink/Red
Maasai Collar Small (no shells)
image for Maasai Collar Small (no shells)
The African Fabric Shop uses cookies. For more information see our privacy policy.