Skip to content | Skip to main navigation
Take the Pledge

News and Stories

What’s happening in the green community
Back to News and Stories

April 16, 2010

Make art, not trash: Art-ivists upcycle plastic into pretty reusables

Posted by: Siel

Eco-minded FilterForGoodians not only opt for filtered tap water over disposable plastic bottled water — but also recycle their Brita filters at the end of their use. And if you’ve dropped off a Brita® filter for recycling at one of the special recycling bins at select Whole Foods, you know that Brita® shares those bins with Stonyfield, whose organic yogurt containers also get recycled through the same program. Both the cups and filters then get turned into reusable Preserve products!

A few lucky Stonyfield cups, however, get not recycled, but upcycled. A few weeks ago, I got to talk to Stonyfield’s CE-Yo, Gary Hirshberg at an Expo in Anaheim, Calif. Mid-chat, Gary suddenly pointed to the chandelier above us — to show me that it was made out of upcycled yogurt cups!

The cups made for a pretty classy, sturdy-looking chandelier, considering the fact that the fairly flimsy cups were originally designed for one-time use. Stonyfield isn’t alone in making disposable containers into reusable lighting, however. Dezeen reports, for example, that a designer created lighting out of hundreds of plastic milk bottles for the interior of an East London shop called Lik+Neon (below; via Re-Nest). The bottles make up “three glowing abstract clouds illuminating the white interior” and from the pictures, appears to lend the space a clean, modern look.

Perhaps because so much of plastic’s produced for disposable uses, making plastics a near-ubiquitous, almost-always free material, an increasing number of visual artists and designers seem to be taking upcycling as both an aesthetic and environmental challenge — creating artworks that range from the playfully whimsical to the solidly didactic.

Kathleen Egan, for example, made an artwork that’s clearly meant to help educate the viewer, as Beth at Fake Plastic Fish describes it. Kathleen, an oceans art-ivist who heads up the San Francisco chapter of FilterForGood® partner Surfrider Foundation, created a giant plastic wave sculpture out of disposable plastic bottles she collected from her friends — who were shocked to discover how much one-use plastics still came in and quickly out of their lives.

Some activist designers are actually putting disposable plastic to direct and practical humanitarian uses. A University of Oregon student turns plastic bags into Utility Quilts — 6’ x 6’ waterproof tarps for the homeless in Haiti to use during rainy season.

And yet other artists’ works are much more whimsical. Plastiquarium, for example, creates new synthetic “species” out of discarded plastic packaging — like the colorful “fish” above.

Ready to become a plastic art-ivist yourself? Get started by reading the upcycling book, Fantastic Recycled Plastic: 30 Clever Creations to Spark Your Imagination, which Fake Plastic Fish’s Beth speaks glowingly about. Not ready to commit to an entire book of plasticky arts and crafts? Then try an afternoon project and create a Recycle Reminder Lamp from an upcycled water bottle. Just remember to nab a bottle to use the next time you pass a recycling bin. Don’t buy that disposable water bottle yourself!

Back to News and Stories
Read More: Get Less Wasteful and Improve Your Love Life >

Log In / Register

For an easy way to Log In or Register.

Not registered yet?

Create an account to fully immerse yourself in everything Brita®:

  • Take the Pledge to reduce bottled water waste
  • Set up filter change reminders
  • Receive news and special offers
  • Review Brita® products
Log In