It's no secret that we humans have a major plastic waste problem. Every year, nearly 14 million pounds of plastic waste end up in the ocean and nearly 30 million pounds end up in landfills. Luckily, many creatives have been making an impact with their craft by upcycling plastic in new and inventive ways.
Let's take a look at a few methods makers are using to use recycled and upcycled plastic in their work...
1.) The Cut-Out Method
Upcycled design opportunities are everywhere, but it requires a certain vision to evaluate your raw material (what some might call "trash") as treasure waiting to happen. This is where Carli Rae Vergamini of CRAVE truly shines, and her collection of earrings made from upcycled pool floaties are genius examples of how to translate potential waste into fashion.
2.) Plastic as Fiber (It's Plastic, It's Yarn = Plarn!)
Perhaps you've seen the clever things many makers are doing with their own homemade plastic yarn (plarn), which is commonly made from plastic bags. There's simple beauty in a finished plarn item, and they're super durable! Plarn baskets, bowls, and coozies from Next Use are an excellent example of how plarn can be a stylish and practical material for making home goods.
There are any number of beautiful plarn mats, bowls, and bags to be had, but few plarn artists have demonstrated plarn's full design potential like Nicole of Franssim (follow on IG @franssim_stuffs). Nicole's highly detailed mounted heads and other plarn creations are breathtaking every time.
3.) The Meltdown Method
When it comes to re-using denser plastics, Philly Plastic Co. brings the heat, literally. Each of the items in their collection is made for the consumer by melting down and molding various types of plastic waste. This involves not only sorting and cleaning but also shredding plastics into pellets that are easier to melt (and mix!) into fun shapes and patterns.
4.) Plastics As Fabric/Textile
Many makers are also finding unique ways to use (and fuse!) plastic to make a recycled textile for sewing. This is a perfect way to source material for durable, water resistant goods like bags and backpacks. Check out these fun recycled plastic roll-top backpacks from Modern Vintage Gift Co.!
Image: Mema backpack by Modern Vintage Gift Co.
Plastic can be fused together using an iron to create unique patterns, as Lucky Life Studio demonstrates with intricate fused plastic art. (Side note: if you're trying this at home, be sure to put a heat-safe barrier like between your iron and the plastic or else you'll end up with a mess!)
Makers who focus on upcycling plastic continue to pave the way for new and inventive uses of this plentiful material. Using our existing plastics in creative ways can reduce the need for new plastics while minimizing landfill (and cutting craft material costs!)
Note: If you're looking to try some new plastic reuse methods, be sure to research all safety precautions, especially when using melt methods.