Plastic Fantastic

3rd November 2011 by

Ever mindful of the thousands of bits of brightly coloured plastic, created so quickly from oil that took millions of years to form, and the thousands of years they will take to degrade, it was exciting to stumble across Plastic Seconds.

Plastic Seconds is about unique and playful body adornments and people who are not scared to wear them and get noticed. It started with and is about a love for colourful plastic bottle tops – that cannot be recycled and get thrown away! Most of the Plastic Seconds pieces are limited editions and some are one of a kind, as the materials used are found objects collected through a random, fun and time consuming process.

Plastic seconds designer Maria Papadimitriou, creates necklaces out of pen lids, jigsaw pieces, mini soya sauce bottles, plugs, toothbrushes and bottle tops.

But she’s not the only one making beautiful things out of ugly bits of found plastic. Diana Boulay is also responding to an ecological problem creatively, she’s been making installations that explore colour and juxtaposition with ‘plastic cast-offs’ for more than 4 decades.

But the prize for the most impressive use of plastic has to go to Sayaka Ganz, who’s sculpted these incredible found objects d’art ‘Wayne’ (the eagle) and ‘Emergence’ (the two horses are called Night and Day).

But in close second is a beach wandering wilderbeast that roamed (yes it really moved) the beaches of Devon in 2010. Artist Theo Jansen created a 10 metre-long mechanical, walking ‘strandbeest’ (meaning beach animal) from scrap plastic tubing and water bottles. Taking inspiration from Darwinian evolution and  the beast used engineering principles to create sophisticated animal-like abilities.

I could go on and on. But I’ll stop here and see if anyone else has incredible plastic inventions to share.

Your creativity can save it from landfill!

5th October 2011 by

This month we’re challenging you to get creative and breathe new life into some poor thing destined for landfill.  The options are endless, but here are some ideas to start you off.  Once you’ve finished crafting email us pictures of your masterpieces to

Friends of Otesha are likely to know that we turn quite a lot of these…

into these…

But even after we’ve made tetrapak wallets for ourselves, friends, mums, dads, distant cousins, dogs, and cats, and shown every child we meet on cycle tours how to do the same, there are still more tetrapaks around than we can justify turning into wallets.  So, what’s the most weird, wonderful, and also useful tetrapak creation you can invent?

Tetra paks aren’t the only tricky things to recycle though – this monthly challenge came into existence when Hanna was hunting around for something to do with her old light bulbs, and stumbled across a blog full of innovative ways to use those old lightbulbs.

And so this becomes a double challenge, not only are we asking you to save stuff from landfill (or landfill from stuff) and get creative – here’s a gentle little prod to change your light bulbs too.  It’s pretty tough to get hold of bog standard light bulbs these days, so if the only ones you can lay your hands on are still burning away above you as you read this, take ‘em out and switch ‘em for something a little more energy efficient, then you can get crafting (please wait for the bulbs to cool down first!).

Bonus points if you can incorporate tetrapaks and light bulbs!

Monthly challenge: Catch the compost fever…

8th February 2011 by

This month we challenge you to start composting. Where there’s a will – there’s a way and we’ve got a wheelbarrow full of different ways to do it.

Why compost you ask?

The UK sends more waste to landfill than any other European county, with more than 27 million tonnes of waste going to landfill each year. This has earned the UK the title of the ‘dustbin of Europe’. More than a third of this household rubbish is kitchen or garden waste. Green waste in landfills does not break down through natural composting and instead gives off methane, a greenhouse gas which is around 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide and since the 1960s has increased in the air 1% per year (twice as fast as the build up of CO2). Organic substances need the proper environment to biodegrade and landfills aren’t one of them. Most landfills are too tightly packed, and there’s a possibility of industrial processing which skews the biodegradation process. Quite aside of the issue of wasting all that food, the environmental benefits of keeping green waste out of landfills are pretty clear!

If you need even more reasons on why to compost, read on:

1. Economic Benefits: Using compost can reduce the need for water, fertilizers, and pesticides. It serves as a marketable commodity and is a low-cost alternative to standard landfill cover and artificial soil amendments. It can also aid the government to cut disposal costs for waste and spend it on other social services.

2. Garden and Soil Improvement: Compost can improve soil texture, nutritional quality and can help regenerate poor soils. It has also been shown to suppress plant diseases and pests, promote high yields of agricultural crops, prevent erosion and silting on embankments parallel to creeks, lakes, and rivers, and prevents erosion and turf loss on roadsides, hillsides, and playing fields.

3. Helping Biodiversity: Currently, peat bogs are being destroyed to make potting compost. When making your own compost, you can avoid purchasing it from the shops at the same time as encouraging worms and keeping birds happy.

One of the most obvious ways of keeping green waste out of landfill is not to throw away so much in the first place. Some amount of food waste is going to be inevitable, so home composting your peelings and egg-shells along with greenery from your garden can be a big help. Even if you have almost no wastage and a tiny garden, home composting can still make a worthwhile contribution to solving the bigger problem.

And in the future, perhaps the government could turn it into eco fuel.

Make Your Own:

If you’ve got some outdoor space, creating your own compost is easy in a bought compost bin, a homemade bin or a big pile. Earth Friends have loads of advice on all three options and some advanced composting tips.

If you’re feeling adventurous go all out a build your own wormery.

If you’re short on space make your own mini composter.

Or find out if your local authority is subsidising compost bins (and water butts and all sorts of other garden goodies).

Get your food waste collected:

If you don’t have an outside area to create your own compost, you still have plenty of other alternatives.

1. Home collection for garden and kitchen waste
Many local authorities and community organisations will collect waste from your home for composting. Many of them compost this waste and sell it for use at home. Green waste collections are often free but some councils charge a small fee.
To find your local council website that deals with disposing of garden waste click here.

2. Taking garden waste to a recycling centre
You can also take garden waste to your local household waste and recycling centre (civic amenity site). You will find skips for garden waste that will be composted, and the compost sold or used locally. Your council looks after local waste and recycling centres and can advise you on opening times and locations. To find more information in your borough, click here.

3. Community composting
Contact an organisation like the Community Composting Network to get involved in composting projects and for other examples of Centralised Community Composting Schemes around the UK, click here.

Pester your local authority:

Council collections of food waste are on the up, but not all of us have access to them yet. So let your council know that you’d like them to collect your food waste that you very much and encourage your neighbours to do the same.

We’ve even made you a template letter/ email to get you started:

To Whom It May Concern,

I am concerned about the millions of tons of rubbish going to landfill each year in the UK and the greenhouse effect of methane caused by green waste and food waste in landfill sites. I think I can reduce my household waste by at least 30% by recycling food waste, but I have no way to do it myself. I would like the council to help me by providing a doorstep food recycling scheme, or by advising other ways that I can recycle my food waste.

Thank you in advance for your assistance,

Yours sincerely,
[insert name here]

[insert address here]

Customise your clothes

3rd April 2009 by

We’ve been known to turn our old clothes and random objects into aprons, belts, reflective skirts and other useful things. We’re also fans of repairing and restoring old clothes. Your challenge, if you’re game, is to make one old item new again.

This month we invite you to get beyond patching denim and turn your jeans into shorts, then your shorts into slippers, use your old slippers to patch a worn jumper, turn your old jumper into new gloves and socks, your socks into toys, after all this you’ll be thirsty so you’ll want to trade your toys for a drink in a can (which you can make into a book) or a carton (which’ll be your next wallet).

If you’ve got any handmade goods or hideous hand-me-downs that you’ve given a new lease of life to, send us a photo – email us at and we’ll post it here.

Helen sent us these recycled babies:

“This one is made out of a pair of old jeans- useful cos there’s
pockets everywhere!  I even managed to convert the fly into a handy mobile
phone size pocket :P ”

“My bag out of an old box and some parcel tape was quick to make, and
lasted 2 years of UK weather before i needed to make another one!”

“The last one is made out of lorry inner tubes, and fastens with a valve.”

Check out for more of the above.

Rosie came in and modelled her customised t-shirt:

Here’s Hanna modeling an apron made out of old shirts and Reisen wrappers:

Georgie showing off her custom-made reflective cycling top-turned-skirt:

And Jo modelling her prized tyre belt:

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