creative recycling picture


If I gave you some paper and pencils, you would expect to write or draw.

Paint, brushes and canvas could indicate a picture to be painted.

Coloured paper scraps, scissors and glue would tempt you to make a collage.

But, a cardboard roll or box, a tin can or plastic bag – these represent endless possibilities.


That’s why making things from recyclables takes creativity to a whole new level.




creative recycling picture
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From a very basic point of view, the obstacle is rubbish. The possibility is what you can transform it into so it doesn’t end up in landfill.

When we train ourselves to see the possibilities in rubbish, we are also training ourselves to see the possibilities in other obstacles in life. What an amazing skill that is.

Start this training at an early age and the very real challenges that face our children become invitations to innovation.

For instance, some predict that 40 per cent of jobs will be lost to automation within the next 10 to 15 years. Where does that leave our children?

According to research by job site Indeed, it is the jobs requiring unique human qualities such as creativity that will remain safe from automation.

The most promising careers for the future will be those that complement the work of new technologies or which rely heavily on ‘human’ qualities, such as social interaction or creativity, that cannot be easily replicated by a computer.

Callam Pickering, Indeed’s APAC economist.

That creativity we taught our kids when they were young will not only ensure they stay employable but could also result in them inventing whole new careers for others.




If necessity is the mother of invention, then many of us are lost. We don’t really NEED anything. We can get our information and entertainment at the push of a button. Social platforms make it easy to seek help from others. We can have our food and groceries delivered, our washing done at the laundromat and shop online for anything we want. Our physical comfort is ensured with fans, heaters and air conditioning.

This isn’t the case for everyone. In the refugee camps of the Algerian desert, refugees were forced to put up with the uncomfortable conditions caused by fierce wind and sun. That was until an engineer designed and built circular houses from plastic bottles. These have worked wonders to protect the people from the harsh weather conditions.

Without the necessity to search for solutions for comfortable survival – the mother of invention – it is important to inspire children to be creative.


Teaching creativity is as important as teaching literacy.

Sir Ken Robinson


While it’s wonderful to set kids up with specific art projects, encouraging them to come up with their own ideas is what creates the innovators and inventors of tomorrow.

A lot of amazing things happen when you have children work with recyclables. For starters, they begin to understand where things come from – and where they end up. This is a great opportunity to teach them to care for their environment.





Wacky Workshops students are given the ‘world superhero’ award when they work out a clever way to recreate the old into the new. This is a great way to empower children.

This encourages them to be protectors of the planet and make positive contributions to society.

Even more empowering is the confidence gained when the children have come up with their own designs, not structured by step by step instructions.

During my Wacky Workshops Remarkable Recycling classes, I usually guide the students through a few planned creative recycling projects to help them see the possibilities in using recyclables. This fires up their imagination and confidence enough that they can then come up with their own ideas.

Then it’s time for the Wacky challenge. Ransack the recycling crate to design and make your own special creation.

The boy who loves to play with cars may design a car from egg cartons and cardboard ribbon rolls.

The girl who loves rainbows may design a rainbow from discarded ribbon or colourful plastic lids.

The child who favours a specific animal may design one for themselves using tins and cardboard rolls.

Or perhaps a pirate ship made from a box and cardboard rolls.


creative recycling picture


Or a robot.


creative recycling picture
Made by a Wacky Workshops student




Sometimes, their plan doesn’t work. Maybe the glue isn’t strong enough. Maybe the markers they want to use don’t show up on the materials they have chosen.

This is where the experimentation comes in. By trial and error, they find a way to make it work. They are perfecting problem-solving skills.

This is where the magic happens. They learn to see possibilities in the obstacles. An important life skill.

In this way, we can encourage our children to be resilient and have a ‘can-do’ attitude.

As the creative recycling experimentation continues, the students’ curiosity is aroused and they become even more motivated to find a solution.

They start making connections between seemingly disparate ideas, which is what creativity is all about. They become original thinkers.

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, the just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.

Steve Jobs


The pride they feel from their creations is immeasurable and gives them the confidence to keep experimenting and creating.




Using recyclables in art is not a new concept. Artists have been using creative recycling for years.

It gained recognition during the 1980s when museums and galleries started opening their doors to these works.

This makes a lot of sense, as it is cost-effective. It also provides artists with the opportunity to highlight some of the world’s rubbish and waste issues.


creative recycling picture


Children are naturally creative and curious. However, these days they are often spoon fed information through the education system and online activities.

The challenge is to keep that creativity and curiosity alive.

While structured art and crafts projects help with the creativity, nothing beats the challenge of reinventing things for inspiring curiosity and innovation.

Creative recycling – transforming everyday items we would normally throw away – has the added bonus of helping them feel they are making a positive contribution to the world.


Check out these fun recycling projects to get you started.

Happy crafting and have a gleeful week, Tamuria.




  • This is so fun! I especially like the idea of children having a World Super Hero identity while they turn recyclables into fun projects that end up as art or toys! I have a closet I am continually filling with shipping package materials and other things for creative projects. One of my favorites is to use my photo calendar pages to make envelopes. It is quick and simple and fun! Thanks for all the ideas and the adorable photos of creative kids!

  • This is the second article I’ve read on creativity and it just nearing 5am! The recycling ideas, the quotes and those delightful pictures all lend to the inspiration!

  • You are doing such a wonderful service to all the children (and adults) who you teach, using your creativity and passion for recycling as the impetus, Tami. I remember reading that human beings are hardwired for both language and creativity and yet so many people do not believe they are creative. With the dramatic changes we continue to see in our world at an escalating pace, it is so important to acknowledge the problems humanity has created and be prepared with solutions also of our making. Creative recycling is growing in popularity and you seem to take it to a new level of ingenuity with your projects. Thank you!

    • Thank you for those kind and generous words, Beverley. I am passionate about sharing the message, especially to children. It not only helps prepare them for an uncertain future as guardians of the planet but we also have a lot of fun along the way.

  • This is great Tami.

    My mind went to something I read about a woman who came up with the idea for an activewear brand that uses recycled materials. She uses a combination of coffee grounds and old plastic bottles to create fabric.

  • This article speaks to my heart as a coach. One of my major roles is to help people find the opportunities in their challenges and you are demonstrating that this kind of creative thinking can be taught to children. I love this! We adults need to be sure we nurture and cultivate this creativity without beating our kids over the head with safety lectures.

    • We can give kids such a good head start if we teach them creative thinking and problem-solving at an early age, Jackie. I think it’s harder to learn these things as an adult because we have more thoughts and habits to resist.

  • Tamuria, I agree with you that every child is creative. If we take them outdoors or place them in front of ordinary items and let them “play” they come up with some amazing ideas. When my grandkids come over, there is no TV (they watch plenty of it at their parents’ home) and no computers…just plain old fashion fun.
    At the end of the day, they will always let us know how “this was the most amazing day in the world.” (HAHAHAHA – you’ve got to laugh at this one.) We just know that it allows us to connect with our grandkids and share with them an experience we hope they will remember will into their adulthood.

    • It’s so rewarding to have fun with the grandkids, isn’t it Claudette? Mine are always keen to go into the studio and create. They often bring me little gifts – a rock, a twig, a nature pod, a cardboard roll – anything they think can be turned into something super special. I love how they can see the possibilities in everything. I’m with you on no computers. However, we watch movies together on television and it often leads to creative adventures.

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