Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Waste Not Want Not

If anyone is playing lingo bingo on this site, you can at last tick off the good old "Waste Not Want Not." After avoiding the cliché for the last two and a half months, I'm afraid I couldn't hold off any longer.

I haven't been able to forget Oliver Heath's point about the importance of seeing our waste as a resource and making the connection between what we throw away and what it could become.

Up until now my impetus for recycling has been driven by guilt, the guilt of having too much rubbish to deal with, the guilt of sending so much stuff to landfill and the impact of my actions on the environment. That's a lot for people to handle and pretty much falls into the negative "cup half empty" culture.

However, thinking about rubbish as a resource, in the way that Oliver Heath describes, captures a much brighter and more positive image. It's more upbeat, uplifting and encouraging. In fact, what he describes is covered by a term that I've not heard before, which is Upcycling.

Upcycling was first coined by William Mcdonough and Michael Braungart in their book Cradle to Cradle, Remaking the way we make things. It's all about taking something that is disposable and making it into something that has greater value. Thanks to regular commenter Mel for bringing the book to my attention. Some of the great upcycled products she's spotted are fleece jackets made out of pop bottles & carrier bags, pencils made out of vending-machine plastic cups and waste-paper bins made out of woven newspaper.

I hadn't realised how many upcycled products are available or indeed the variety. Just having a poke about the Internet revealed the breadth of items from school uniforms made from plastic bottles, right through to a range of shoes made from seat belts, car seat leather and recycled rubber.

And as for our old f(r)iend, the plastic bag, I've also discovered a jewellery designer who makes a beautiful range of necklaces and earrings from old carrier bags. Also don't close down the Internet tonight without visiting the Re-toyed Trash Project, which has encouraged me to get out the needle and thread and be inventive.

If you've now caught the upcycled bug and are looking for even more creative inspiration have a look at the following sites, which reveal the wonderful array of products that are available.

is the online shop which was co-founded by Oliver Heath and includes eco and ethically-friendly products. My favourite is the Recycled Cardboard Castle. I suppose that comes from being a mother of boys.

I can also recommend the recycling section on the Hippyshopper website/blog, which features a whole range of inspirational products. It is really worth a good-old browse. You'll even discover jewellery made from recycled flip-flops.

It is also encouraging to see that there are now alternatives to all those corporate promotional products that litter desk drawers, kitchen cupboards and eventually landfill. If you work in an office you'll know the kind of thing I mean. How many coasters and keyrings does the world actually need? At least, companies like Allwag are now offering alternative products made from recycled resources including tyres, plastic bags, juice cartons and circuit boards.

There are even products out there for pets, as demonstrated by the dog toys made from plastic bottles, available from the online store Stop and Paws.

So I think it's a big thumbs up for upcycling in the 21st Century. I now think about recycling in a new light and I hope you do too. I also hope that you'll enjoy the treat on offer below, a blast from the past which shows that even in the '70s the seeds were already in place....

P.S. Thanks go to regular reader Baba for the tip off about the Worn Again shoes mentioned above from Terra Plana. Please keep those recommendations coming in.



picklesmum said...

Shoes? Made from Womble Canvas? That's just cruel!


LOL Picklesmum, but what about the Womble E leather...oooohhh noooo! Great name though...Womble!

By the way, you've got your name up in lights on my latest post. A shining example. Hope you don't mind the pedestal moment ;-D

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