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November 12, 2009

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A case of the kite fantastic via plastic

PLASTIC bags, the scourge of the environment, are flying high in Beijing, thanks to a retired engineer who is turning the waste into colorful kites.

Believed to have been invented in China more than 2,000 years ago, kites were traditionally made from material such as rice paper, silk and plant fiber.

The modern version uses a ubiquitous material which Han Fushan, 71, said was the easiest, and cheapest, thing he could find to make kites.

"Kites are my one and only treasure," said Han, who spent most of his life creating architectural drawings before retiring some nine years ago.

"It's through kites that I have got to know so many people and make so many friends."

Han's kites have made him into a local celebrity, and he is proud of his cheap and environmentally friendly creations, which cost less than 15 US cents to make.

After years of showing up at the same park at the same time each day to fly kites, Han has developed a solid fan base among other enthusiasts.

On average, one kite takes about two days of cutting, pasting and stringing to create, and many feature wildlife, sports stars and even opera figures.

"Plastic bags have bright colors and a good texture. Thicker bags are good for making kites for strong winds, while thinner ones are better for light winds," Han said.

He owns more than 600 kites and wants to have something new every week to entertain his fans.

"I think this is a really good idea not only for our country but also for the world," said Yan Juning, who often helps Han launch kites after her morning jog.

According to the Xinhua news agency, China throws away about 300 tons of plastic bags every day.


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