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The Beauty of Waste: Recycling Art

“And that is the scary bit, bins -especially recycle bins convince us we don’t need to be resourceful…So how can we reuse? Because let’s be realistic those tin cans, spaghetti boxes and milk cartons aren’t going to be going anywhere soon”

This has to be one of my favourite topics. For a long time I could never reconcile my two passions for art and the environment. But once i started working with children, i realised how important it was not to pass down the habit of using toxic and wasteful materials, many of which are plastic based. These days I never look at the recycle bin the same way (and I have to get in first before my puppy!). It is not secret that our consumer habits and waste is getting pretty out of hand. My mumma tells me memories from when she was younger and remembered her parents and grandparents being extremely resourceful. Post-War England had no option but to be. Now? There is a bin for that. And that is the scary bit, bins especially recycle bins convince us we don’t need to be resourceful. The truth is we need to be resourceful now more than ever. Precisely because there is so much waste and so many products on the planet. It is best to be an advocate for reduce and reuse before recycle. So how can we reuse? Because let’s be realistic those tin cans, spaghetti boxes and milk cartons aren’t going to be going anywhere soon. This week on Instagram I posted some fun art and craft ideas straight from your household recycling. (it won’t be my last recycling art inspired stint of posts, so head over and follow me if you’re interested in a dose of inspiration). To recap i posted ideas for toilet roll animals, robots, letterboxes and a time machine- check them out here.

The reason I love transforming recyclable waste into art? Well have you got all day? Just kidding. But here are my top reasons if your looking for a little more convincing about why you should turn your recycling upside down to make some art.

art from recycling

It’s a teaching opportunity!

Okay, this one might be for fellow enthusiasts but i do encourage families to do a little more collaborative research. Use recycling art activities as an opportunity to chat and learn about waste management, low-waste living and environmental impact. Educate and inspire each other to be the change makers the world needs. Feel like the children need a little more inspiration or convincing that recycling art is cool? I suggest checking out the likes of Michelle Reader or David Edgar‘ colorful fish. You can also find some more artists on the Beautiful Decay and Mental Floss Blogs.

It’s Resourceful

Yep. The recycle bin will get a get a renewed perspective cranking and encourage children to think outside of the box through increased imagination and resourcefulness.

Motor Skill Utilisation and Form Recognition

Good old motor skills get a work out here with all the stacking, cutting, glueing, taping, balancing and attaching. 3d form is very different to 2d form in terms of creativity. I regard construction based activities as a must to help children learn about balance, form and space.

Affordable AND Low impact

Art made from waste is affordable and low impact. A perfect combination. All you really need for recycling art is glue, string and tape (go for paper and natural gum tapes) and a few weeks of collected recyclables. Barely a penny is spent for hours of construction and fun and a much reduced impact on mother earth.

Recycled material activities can be as structured or open-ended as you like. You may want to just leave the materials and see what arises from your child’s imagination or you may want to set up a robot factory. For art therapists like me, invitations that allow the therapy to dip a little deeper can be welcome. A favourite of mine is building a time machine. Wishing for more connection in the household?  Spend an afternoon designing letterboxes for each family member.

Need more convincing here are some more art, craft and construction ideas from the recycling:

  • Construct a home, a model of your own or one for an animal or mythical creature
  • Use toilet, paper towel or other tubing to create binoculars or periscopes
  • Use empty packaging for “shop” play, you will soon have a fully stocked pretend shop
  • Design your own cereal. Cover a cereal box and design a new cereal type!
  • Use tin cans to create walkie-talkies
  • Use Jars with the labels soaked off to create a mini world or terrarium
  • Who remembers making a Dioroma at school? Save those shoeboxes (see Guide Patterns website for some inspiration)

What are some recycling art activities you can think of? I would love to hear about your creations in the comments.

recycling art toilet roll animals and recycled robots