Resources for Creative Recycling

May 16, 2007

Photo Credit: search for opportunities for recycling stretches beyond individual desires to be able to recycle more, as Jennifer discussed earlier this week in our Q & A feature.

While Jennifer discussed some ways of increasing the amount of recycling that individual households participate in, there are websites that are engaging with the ideas of finding new uses for materials that will otherwise end up as waste adding to the volume in our landfills.

Sources of material with a potential to be recycled are posted and discussed at Superuse. "Superuse is an online community of designers, architects and everybody else who is interested in inventive ways of recycling."

Some of the entries are simply documenting materials that are in need of recycling, such as tires, container ship cargo bags (huge nylon bags with a capacity of more than a ton that are used to load materials on board cargo ships rather than using the ubiquitous shipping container), and discarded wind turbine blades (which are unusable for their primary purpose due to cracks).

Sometimes, recycling ideas are documented, as with the "Trashforma 04" project which took 166 stainless steel sinks and created a cubic volume 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) on a side for a beachside installation. This installation is as much about art as it is about a practical form of shelter, but it engages with the idea of transforamtive use.

Superuse encourages designers who are looking for creative applications where existing materials, that would otherwise add to the waste stream, become the raw materials for other products that extend their usefulness.

At a more consumer level (but no less interesting), How Can I Recycle This? addresses questions about recycling consumer materials. Rather than dealing with industrial scale materials, the questions here tend to be more about ubiquitous household items and consumer goods. It's based in the UK, so some materials/uses may be a bit unfamiliar. The format is a very ordinary blog, with single issue entries addressing questions about how to recycle (or more often, to re-use) various unusual materials. Suggestions are found in the coments following each post.

The headline image for this article comes from a post with a question about reusing or recycling inflatable toys that have gone flat or gotten torn and are no longer workable toys. As a parent of two boys, I have already had a couple of inflatable pool toys that we have thrown away after they were punctured or torn. I'll watch this to see if someone comes up with a good suggestion on this one.

A more typical question asked "How can I reuse or recycle…an old wire waste paper bin?" and elicited suggestions including using it to collect recylable bottles, using it as a planter, using it as a sieve for rinsing root vegetables, as well as cleaning and repainting it.

Comments about these seem to come mostly from other users, rather than from designers, but the suggestions are no less creative or interesting.

Both sites are full of examples of the approaches people are taking to find more opportunities to re-use and recycle materials. Even packaging and"disposable" products can find new uses with some creativity. And these sites have plenty of creative solutions to offer and other opportunities awaiting discovery.