The ‘Art’ of Upcycling
By: Jeff Kranz

What do you consider “garbage?” While TerraCycle is helping to eliminate the idea of waste through upcycling waste materials into useable products, artists are showing that items previously thought of as trash can actually have lives of their own. If trash can be turned into a thing of beauty, can it still be considered trash?


Sayaka Ganz

Light_TCCB“Uta” - Photo Credit: Valentina Ragozzino

Photo Credit:act4                                                   Photo Credit:Valentino Ragozzino

Nothing could be more different from a lifeless pile of inanimate plastic goods than a galloping horse, or a whale floating in the ocean. These are the types of life forms that artist Sayaka Ganz sees in discarded, oddly shaped plastic items and thrift store goods, turning once-forgotten objects into organisms full of movement.

Ms. Ganz says that the most effective way artists can help reduce waste “is to show how beautiful these materials can be, and what can be done with these mundane objects and materials.” You can see more of Sayaka Ganz’s “Reclaimed Creations” on her website at

Steven Rodrig


Courtesy of Steven Rodrig

As new technology continues to develop and improve, old technology inevitably becomes obsolete and forgotten. Artist Steven Rodrig denies technology this typical end, turning old printed circuit boards (PCBs) that would otherwise be landfilled into art. Instead of being replaced and discarded for the most up to date variant, these PCBs are turned into living scenes that never become obsolete.

Rodrig sees contained in each PCB “an organic living functioning system compacted into a concise, physical universe.” Like TerraCycle, Steven Rodrig is showing that simply by looking at our waste differently, we can create new, beautiful and innovative things that don’t end up forgotten in a landfill.  To see more of Steven Rodrig’s PCB art, go to his website at

Michelle Reader

Courtesy of Michelle Reader

Michelle Reader doesn’t just build sculptures from reclaimed items and waste, she tells stories about the waste we create. In the piece above titled ‘Seven Wasted Men,’ Michelle used real human dimensions, along with three weeks of each model’s own trash, to bring attention to the fact that humans produce nearly seven times their bodyweight in garbage annually. Each sculpture she makes is made with materials relevant to the image or issue she is trying to depict.

In addition to creating artwork from these materials, Reader educates children and teachers alike in the use of recycled waste as a medium in art and school projects. You can find more of Michelle’s recycled art at her website:

The Recycled Orchaestra of Paraguay
Courtesy of MIM

The city of Cateura, Paraguay was built on a landfill. In an effort to bring music to the children of this impoverished community, music teacher Favio Chávez did something unexpected: he organized a team and started searching through the landfill. Using oil and paint cans, along with other waste, Chávez and his team created an entire orchestra of instruments, everything from a cello and bass made out of oil drums, to a trumpet made with recycled scrap metal.

His plan was a huge success. The youth orchestra at Favio’s music school, dubbed the Recycled Orchestra, now performs internationally. “Landfill Harmonic,” a documentary about the group’s incredible story, is also planned for release in 2014. You can learn more about the Recycled Orchestra here:

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