Designers, artists, and creative businesspeople are making beautiful things out of trash. Artists have used recycled materials in their artwork since the early 20th century – Picasso, Braque & Gris built priceless collages out of newsprint, labels, and other found materials. Here in Santa Barbara local artist Rafael Perea de la Cabada exhibits pieces that incorporate recycled and found materials in many of his compositions.
In Mexico colorful tinware is made from old cans and hubcaps. In Morocco steel-rimmed tires are fashioned into elegant water urns. Stripped out multicolored telephone cable wire is woven into baskets in South Africa. In Columbia craftsmen weave recycled plastic into baskets in a traditional style, while in Indonesia these same plastics are used to create children’s furniture.
We have a long history of recycling materials in the U.S. as well. Decades ago a practical and instructive practice was to paste newsprint on walls for wallpaper. Children learned to read as a new decorative style was introduced. Today contemporary designers coat floor surfaces in newsprint with clear varnish to complement an industrial style. Recycled glass is appearing in architectural tile and custom slabs for table and countertops. Teak and barnboards are salvaged from buildings and deconstruction sites to be used again in furniture and flooring. Yogurt and milk containers are becoming counters, industrial woodwaste pulp is transformed into floor tiles in a variety of colors. Salvaged doors, shutters, windows, architectural metalwork and trim become focal points for new construction projects even though it their second time around.
Landfills are filling up, toxic runoff from construction and landscape practice is running into the oceans, and incinerators are spewing noxious gasses. While recycling materials for re-use in our homes and workspaces is not a new phenomenon, it is definitely more popular as we recognize the crucial need to be more environmentally responsible. It is necessary, creative, economical, and smart to choose to re-use.