Kan Chan Kin is a musician, artist and activist. Or, as his social media handle implies, you can simply refer to him as an “artivist” whose eco-friendly work is motivated and inspired by trash – more specifically, how society can create less of it.
“I think trash is a problem in Mauritius,” he explains to CNN, “so this is why people like me – citizens of Mauritius – have to get their hands dirty to get the job done.”
Kan, 35, takes action on a number of fronts, but his most tangible work is in the musical instruments he builds from discarded items through a process known as upcycling. Unlike recycling, which involves destroying waste and processing it into materials to make something new, upcycling takes waste and creates something new from its current state.
It’s easy to do, Kan says, for a very simple yet undesirable reason: “the materials are all around, and it’s free.”
Managing trash on a small island in the Indian Ocean is paramount. Mauritius is just 45 kilometers wide and 65 kilometers long, yet it’s home to more than 1.2 million people, making it the most densely populated African nation. According to the World Bank, the average Mauritian generates 2.3 kilograms of municipal solid waste per day, amounting to nearly one ton a year – almost double the global average per urban resident.
Before the pandemic, more than one million tourists would also visit the island annually, creating even more garbage.
Through performing around the island with his upcycled instruments, the former electronic music DJ and producer combines his passion for music, art and the environment by spreading a message that everyday citizens can make a big difference and that no action is too small when it comes to preserving their island paradise.
Watch the video at the top of this page to learn more about Kan’s story and see him play his upcycled instruments.