Glass bottles, plastic bags, straws, bottle caps, plastic bottles. This list of waste products is never-ending but the possibilities they lead to are surprisingly positive. Fed up with seeing such filth and waste on the streets or floating in the sea, some artists have started transforming garbage items into sustainable art pieces that draw attention to the degradation of the planet.

So what is upcycled art? It is no secret that our society generates enormous amounts of waste on a daily basis, much of which ends up as landfill. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, our society today produces about 300 million tonnes of just plastic waste per year. And because of the amount of waste built up, various forms of clean-up methods have been implemented in our society. Recycling as we know is an essential action we need to practice every day to protect our environment and ourselves. And under the umbrella of recycling, we have two smaller categories — downcycling and upcycling.

With the former process, the destructivity is less but as a result of that the final product loses quality. In the latter, the creative intervention allows the product to be of good quality but also of value. Upcycling has given the artistic movement a medium to create outstanding art while also spreading critical messages regarding environmental pollution. Whether it be glass, paper, cardboard, wood, or plastic, everything is turned into art in some shape or form. What I admire most about upcycled art is that it goes beyond conventional recycling as the final products transcend the cultural, economic, and social value of the original product.

This method of recycling is not limited by any discipline as it is represented in all of them. Art is a small word, but it encompasses many forms such as painting, sculpture, haute couture, and even furniture. When you create or purchase a piece of upcycled work it holds a value unlike any other regular product. The art value is one thing, but the environmental values are so refreshing. Not only do you have a new art piece, but you are also one step closer to saving the environment. When it comes to the environmental benefits of such kind of art, the major point is that these pieces contribute to extending the usefulness of the recycled materials. And the amazing consequence is the reduction of waste generated by us. Working with such waste products is not an easy thing. It takes a great deal of patience, creativity, and technique.

Upcycled art is multi-purposeful and visionary to an extent because it is actively saving the planet in the present while also teaching society about ways to take care of their future. Especially with kids, this is an easy way to teach them how to be responsible citizens without bombarding them with scientific terms and scaring them. Even in art class, teachers can encourage the students to invest in upcycled art by giving them projects related to it. Set aside a unit on just upcycled art. Schools are a big institution for waste and recycled material, so they won’t even have to worry too much about funds and resources because they will be freely available. While it does take a few hours to sort through the materials and figure out possible projects, it is definitely worth the effort.

Environmental pollution is something that has been building up for decades so it is only fair that the solution will take its time as well. I know that we have many global environmental crises on our hands right now and none of them are going to be solved in a snap. But these little efforts do truly impact the planet. Mother nature has been giving humans an infinite amount of do-overs for years now. So if humans can get a second chance, then why can’t waste?