Recycling Crusader Uses Simple Garbage to Build Houses for the Poor

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For the past five decades, Nargis Latif  has been actively advocating for the recycling of trash in Pakistan as an alternative to simply burning it all and raising pollution levels. But perhaps her greatest achievement has been developing a technique of building cheap housing for the poor of Karachi out of blocks of dry waste.

Nargis Latif’s inspiring story began in the 1960s, with a quarrel over burning trash outside her apartment. She fought hard and managed to get the burning point moved, but that was not her real goal. She wanted people to start using their waste, instead of simply discarding it or burning it, but that meant arguing with individuals who simply did not understand the benefits of recycling. So she decided to use a language they would understand – money.

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Italian High-School Students Create Vending Machine That Turns Plastic Trash into Phone Cases

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A group of high-school students from Italy have invented an awesome vending machine that grinds used plastic bottles into pellets which are then turned into smartphone cases by a built-in 3D printer.

Saving the planet, making the world cleaner for future generations or just doing the right thing are powerful arguments for recycling, but the truth is some people require more materialistic incentives to actually give a damn about the environment. It’s a sad reality, but a group of kids have come up with an ingenious invention that may just get more young people involved in waste recycling – a vending machine that eats up plastic trash and turns it into stylish cases for a variety of popular smartphone models.

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Company Recycles Coffee Grounds into Durable Coffee Cups

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German company Kaffeeform combines dried coffee grounds and biopolymer to create stylish-looking coffee cups and saucers that are not only durable and dishwasher-safe, but even smell a bit like coffee.

For every cup of coffee you brew, about two tablespoons of grounds wind up in the trash. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but just think about the millions of coffees consumed around the world every single day, and you’ll start to see the problem. Sure, some of those coffee grounds are recycled as fertilizer or beauty products like face masks, but most of it ends up at landfills. It was while contemplating this issue that German designer product designer Julian Lechner came up with a radical new and sustainable way of recycling coffee grounds – turning them into tableware.

Lechner first came up with the idea of using coffee grounds to create eco-friendly crockery while attending university in the Italian city of Bolzano. “We were always drinking coffee at university,” he remembers. “Before classes, after classes, meeting friends, hanging out at espresso bars—all the time. And that’s how I started to wonder, What happens to all that coffee? It was all just getting thrown away.” He began consulting with his professors about ways of using coffee grounds to create a solid material, but it took him years to actually come up with a viable solution.

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Danish Artist Travels the World Building Thousands of Scrapwood Birdhouses for Urban Birds

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Thomas Dambo, an artist from Denmark, is using his sculpting skills to help thousands of urban birds around the world. Fueled by the belief that humans should coexist peacefully with other species, he makes use of scrap wood to build houses for birds everywhere he goes.

“Over the last 7 years I have made more than 3500 birdhouses in various projects all over the world,” Dambo wrote on Bored Panda. “Birds are some of the few animals still living in our cities, and I began this project because I thought that it was important to make sure that they can continue living here. It’s about creating a shelter for birds and also about reminding us that it’s important to leave room for birds in the urban world.”

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Kamikatsu – Japan’s Aspiring Zero-Waste Town

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We’ve heard many stories of individuals across the world who’ve adopted a zero-waste lifestyle, but it’s not often that we come across an entire community that is trying to become waste-free. The residents of Kamikatsu, Japan, take recycling so seriously that they actually hope to become the nation’s first zero-waste community by 2020.

Kamikatsu has no garbage trucks – so residents need to compost their kitchen scraps at home. They also have to wash and sort the rest of their trash into 34 different categories, and bring it to the recycling center themselves where workers make sure that the waste goes into the correct bins. It apparently took some time for the residents to get used to this rule, but they eventually managed to adapt to the drastic changes and  are now seeing them as normal.  

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Dutch Students Turn Wasted Rotting Fruit into “Fruit Leather” Accessories

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A team of six undergrads in the Netherlands have come up with a brilliant use for wasted fruit – they’re converting it into leather!

The eco-friendly project – titled ‘Fruitleather Rotterdam’ involves transforming rotten fruit into a durable, malleable, leather-like material. It started off as a school assignment at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, in which design students were supposed to set up a flash retail event. After brainstorming, this particular team decided to tackle the problem of food wastage as well.

“The academy gives us a perfect view over Binnenrotte Square in Rotterdam, where they have a market each Tuesday and Saturday,” said Hugo de Boon, one of the students involved. “We saw how the square would be completely littered with food waste (at the end of the day), so we realised this was a problem we would want to solve from a designer’s point of view.”

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Garbage Gone Glam – Designer Turns Everyday Trash into Fashionable Outfits

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Kristen Alyce is an eco-conscious designer who converts all kinds of trash, like discarded drink cartons, leaflets and concert tickets, into fashionable outfits for women. Her quirky designs include all sorts of clothing – right from cocktail dresses to floor length gowns, made under her label ‘Garbage Gone Glam’.

Kristen said that she started dreaming about recycling garbage into garments when she was still in college, after realizing just how much trash we humans produce every single day. “I realized as a college student living with three girls, we created so much waste it was incredible,” she said. “So I started saving the mass amounts of plastic bags, magazines, boxes and packaging we went through on a daily basis.”

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San Francisco Artist Turns Disposable Coffee Cups into Stunning Works of Art

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We love all kinds of unusual art here at OC, and Miguel Cardona’s unique paper cups fit the bill perfectly. The San Francisco-based illustrator and professor of design takes ordinary coffee cups and transforms them into stunning collectibles. His doodles cover a range of subjects – from aliens to sea creatures, and even the face of Walter White (of Breaking Bad fame).

Cardona’s love affair with cups began last year, when he happened to visit a café near his workplace. The barista tied a napkin around a takeaway cup, and Cardona thought it looked like a scarf. So he quickly sketched a hipster around it. On subsequent cups the scarf became a doo-rag and then a Ninja Turtles’ mask.

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Beautiful Cyberpunk Collages Made with Discarded Computer Parts

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I’ve always been a big fan of steampunk and cyberpunk art, and the beautiful collages of Anna Dabrowska, a.k.a. Finnabair, are some of the most intriguing works I’ve ever seen. The mixed media artist hailing from Warsaw, Poland, uses all kinds of materials, from used computer components to old buttons and even dead moths.

“I love texture and believe in power of recycling and upcycling. I just adore flea market supplies,” Finnabair says on her official site, and it shows in her works. The Polish artist can take the boring household item and turn into the centerpiece of an engaging work of art. Whether it’s metal screws, artificial flowers, or even plain buttons, she manages to turn recycling and upcycling into exciting artistic processes that spark viewers’ imagination. Finnabair says her art is more than just a job or hobby: “It gives me moments when I forget about the world, working hard [in my] head, hands translate, paint, stick… I cannot stop.” Judging by the time and patience she needs to painstakingly place every single element in the right place and then paint the whole picture in vibrant colors, it’s obvious she pours her heart and soul into her art.

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Artist Turns Confiscated Scissors into Creepy Spider Sculptures

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Every year, the Transportation Security Administration confiscates countless objects deemed dangerous from passengers boarding flights at airport terminals across the US. Apart from guns, knives or aerosol, a lot of scissors end up in their recycling bin. Enter Christopher Locke, an artist who figured out he could actually use scissors to create creepy sculptures of spiders.

It’s a known fact that spiders don’t have many human fans. Most people just think they look creepy and would simply squish them given the opportunity, even if they don’t pose a real threat. But, that’s not really a viable option when talking about the scissors spiders of Christopher Locke. You’d have a hard time stomping on one of them without having your foot pierced by sharp metal, so you just kind of have to accept them. Reminiscent of a classic Tim Burton movie, these metal sculptures are created from disassembled scissors, bent into shape and welded together in the creepy shape of spiders.

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Artist Makes Stunning Sculptures from Shattered CDs

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Instead of throwing away old CDs, like most of us do, Sean Avery transforms them into incredible sculptures he classifies as sustainable art. Sure, you’ve seen CDs used as decorations before, but I assure you, they’re nothing like what this man makes.

Pieces of shattered CDs are pretty hard to work with when you’re trying to recreate an organic shape, but somehow Sean Avery manages to piece together animal and bird models that look amazingly realistic. Using special layering techniques, he is able to make something as pointy and sharp as CD shards look as smooth as feathers or animal fur. “I blend many different man made materials together to make them appear strangely organic, with a distinct sense of movement” the artist reveals about his unique process.

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The Orchestra of Recycled Instruments

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This group not only plays music, but builds the instruments from scrap. That’s right, they make their ‘recycled’ instruments out of things like kitchen spatulas and cookie cutters. Their music, nonetheless, is wonderful to listen to.

The Orchestra of Recycled Instruments is from Paraguay, a majority of them so poor that they had to resort to creating their own instruments. However, their love for music was never hindered by their economic condition. The members of the orchestra are students at the “Sonidos De La Tierra,” which is an organization dedicated to running music workshops and schools in the lesser privileged areas of Paraguay. This is where these talented musicians learned the skill of recycled-instrument-music making. Some of them were so passionate about the art that they even quit their jobs as recyclers at a major dump site, in order to pursue their music full time.

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Shijiao – Where Christmas Lights Go to Die

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Ever wonder what happens to Christmas lights once you toss out into the trash at the end of every holiday season? Turns out a lot of things are made from them, including slipper soles.

Shijiao, in China, has been designated as the world’s capital for recycling old and unusable Christmas tree lights that are thrown away by Americans each year. There are at least nine factories in this small town that process large volumes of tree lights. Yong Chang Processing is one of them, the company recycles 2.2 million pounds of lights each year. Overall, the factories of the town go through over 20 million pounds. Shijiao is known for its cheap labor costs and low environmental standards. These factors make it an ideal place for a recycling zone. It has been so for around 20 years now. Needless to say, the burning of the wire from the lights causes huge amounts of black smoke to rise up in the air, which is clearly visible from the fields around town. The process adopted is the fastest way to extract copper from rubber and plastic, and hence there isn’t any alternative.

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Russian Couple Build Their Own Fairy Tale Castle

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A retired couple from the suburbs of Artyom, Russia have worked for 16 years transforming an ordinary house into a fairy tale castle, using only junk materials found on the street and at a local landfill.

They might be pensioners, but Alexey and Valentina Krivov don’t consider themselves too old for fairy tales. They didn’t want to grow old in their grey house and since they couldn’t afford to buy a castle of their own, they decided to build their own castle fit for a prince and princess. Alexey worked in constructions for most of his life and this gave him the chance to be a foreman for his own personal project, and Valentina had experience as a decorator and plasterer, so they figured out most of the details themselves. They started work on their architectural wonder in 1995, salvaging whatever materials they needed from the streets and the nearby construction landfill. As the castle started taking shape, their neighbors started noticing it and became eager to help the Krivovs in whatever way they could.

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Artist Creates Self-Portrait with Thousands of Plastic Bottle Caps

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Chicago-based artist Mary Ellen Croteau has created an astounding self-portrait using thousands of recycled plastic bottle caps.

Mary Ellen Croteau considers herself a political artist who uses her works to make statements and get people to look at things from a different perspective. This time she wanted viewers to acknowledge the presence of bottle caps in our everyday lives and realize how rarely they are recycled. Croteau was stacking plastic bottle caps and plastic pill bottles trying to create precarious towering columns inspired by the modernist works of Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, when she noticed smaller caps fit inside the larger ones and created a whole new color combination. This got her thinking about Chuck Close’s art and the way he creates realistic portraits using just shapes of color.

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