The art of upcycling

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Re-purposing discarded objects through art and design could inspire consumers to be more conscious and provide solutions to the world's waste problems.

Image: Jacq Chorlton courtesy of Retrash

From medical advancements, to creating masterful pieces of art, travelling vast oceans, to building cities, inventing the lightbulb, to developing the internet, humans are capable of creating greatness, but our ingenuity comes with its problems.

‘As a species were are just too damn clever,’ said Dr Brandon Gien, CEO of Good Design Australia in a recent panel at Link Festival.  ‘We have designed ourselves into this world and as a result there are some significant challenges facing our planet as a result of our own ingenuity.

‘It is a case of taking a step back and saying we got ourselves into this mess, we can design ourselves out of it as well.’

This mess has a lot to do with excessive consumption and the waste we produce. Australia is one of the highest waste producers in the world, producing the equivalent of three million garbage trucks full of compacted rubbish each year.

But an art movement may have the answer: upcycling. Nathan Devine, creator of Retrash – an online platform that showcases upcycling innovation from artists and designers around the world – said that rethinking waste ‘represents a small part of the solution to our growing problem’.

Devine said Retrash is an ‘inspirational platform’ designed to get people thinking about how we can reuse everyday objects. ‘[Upcycling] is about two things: first it’s about reconsidering the amount of things that we buy and the waste that creates, and secondly how we can rethink second-hand materials by adding value to them.

‘The philosophy behind Retrash celebrates the creative arts element of upcycling, while at the same time improving our environment by reconsidering our connection to it,’ said Devine.

Madeleine Dore

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