Environmentally Unfriendly Materials Recycled Into Works of Art


This week, global citizens celebrated the 44th annual Earth Day — a worldwide initiative to draw awareness to environmental concerns and rally for change. Artists continue to bring attention to these issues by recycling environmentally unfriendly materials in their artwork, reusing the world’s junk surplus in beautiful and fascinating ways. Here are just a few of the creative reimaginings that speak to our planet’s use and reuse of careless materials.

Artist Zimoun used those dastardly packing peanuts to create a hypnotic installation inside the Museo d’Arte di Lugano in Switzerland. On 36 Ventilators, 4.7m3 Packing Chips:

Even though the swirling of the polystyrene in the depth of each of the windows is actually limited to that space, we have the impression that the movement is propagating to the whole length of the Limonaia. To the visual effect adds the ticking of chips on the window panes, which could remind a thin but insistent rain. If, instead, we cross the threshold and get inside the space, the perception produced by the ebb and flow of the chips changes radically becoming more abstract; the movement appears mechanical rather than natural, the buzzing of the ventilators covers up the ticking of the polystyrene on the windows and thus reveals the artificial origin of the motion.

Ryan Horsman and Jason Dembski found a use for the chopsticks that come with your to-go containers and created a unique stool by matching them with bamboo steamers. A hidden cushion makes the au naturel furniture comfy.

Lisbon’s Studio Verissimo created a luxurious chandelier from the plastic spoons that are casually tossed into the trash by the thousands daily.

It seems criminal that plastic grocery bags are still a thing that exists, but Erin Johnson found a good use for them in her installation I Love You to Death. She hot glued plastic bags together to create a massive cloud, filled it with helium, and set it loose on the city streets.

Tara Donovan is known for her large-scale installations and sculptures made from everyday objects such as drinking straws, tape, and pencils. The artist’s biomorphic Styrofoam Cup Sculpture challenged people to see the polystyrene drinking vessels (vehemently hated by many) as beautiful, undulating clouds.

There are so many better alternatives to plastic water bottles these days, and a sculpture created during the United Nations Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro made a strong case for why we should banish them completely. These giant fish (with eerie dead eyes) on Botafogo beach were built from thousands of discarded water bottles.

Daniela Edburg’s Drop Dead Gorgeous photo series humorously portrays vignettes of “death and desire.” Each scenario depicts how we fall victim to “the seductive objects, rituals, and pleasures of everyday life” — including our obsession with all things plastic (in this case, miles of Saran Wrap).

Bianca Mimose de Klerk’s work contains oodles of environmentally unfriendly materials, such as egg cartons, pill blister packs, and more. The wasteful scraps are transformed into haunting mixed media sculptures and installations that resemble lost relics.