#LetsMakeWednesdays – Recycling old into new

May 6, 2020

Let’s make something new out of something old!

A key part of design is to look at the world around us and see how we can make it better. This could be making an invention that helps us in some way, or even something that makes life more fun. Increasingly, designers are looking at how to reuse and recycle things that would normally be thrown away. From coming up with new materials to make things, to redesigning everyday objects to be reused in new ways, creativity is key to building a more sustainable world. Creativity means coming with new ideas and putting them into action! Watch the video below from Materials Designer Ella Bulley as she explains how she uses previously thrown-away material to build something new, and good for our environment.


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Let’s make something new out of something old!

Start by thinking about how you spend your day: when you wake up, eat a meal, get dressed, study, play and tidy. Where could these things be quicker, easier or more fun? Write down what area of your day you want to focus on (for example: dinner time, brushing your teeth, walking to school). Next, gather some materials. Look at things that you have recycled – you might have used tins, cardboard boxes, milk cartons or old magazines. Wash them out and make sure that they are clean and dry.

Now, let’s make a prototype! A model of a new invention is called a ‘prototype’. This is used to test out your idea and see how it may look in real life. What could you design to help you make your day better? Start by using a piece of paper and a pencil to write down and sketch out some ideas. Think back to what you have written down about how you spend your day, and what part you would want to be quicker, easier or more fun that reuses something you have.

Look at the materials you have gathered and see how they can be completely new. Can they be put together in new ways? Maybe it is something to help you wake up in the morning. Or a fun new game to play. It could be something that helps you move around faster, makes dinnertime more fun, or helps you focus on studying. Use your imagination – no idea is too big or too small and your imagination has no limits!

The V&A collection has lots of objects that are made from recycled materials. This chair looks like it is painted in many different colours. It is in fact made of old plastic bottles that once contained shampoo and washing-up liquid. Do you see how the designer has made something beautiful and useful out of things we use every day?

Chair designed by Jane Atfield, 1992. Mus. no. W.4-1996

Let’s make something that can be reused in a new way!

When people talk about sustainability and the environment, one problem we face is that we throw away a lot of rubbish. By making something that can be reused, it prevents it from going into a landfill or littering our environment. Think about things that you recycle or throw away. Could you redesign them so that they could be used longer?

Maybe your milk bottle has a changeable top so it could become a flower vase? Could you use old tin cans as part of a new game? Or maybe you can design something that is meant to be thrown away in a new material that means you can now reuse it? The sky is the limit. Using a pen and paper, draw some ideas of how one object can now have 2, or more, purposes.

Bottle designed by John Habraken, 1963. Mus. no.

Sometimes, a small design change can mean something can now be used in a completely new way. The person who designed this green bottle came up with the idea after seeing how single-use bottles were littering beaches and hurting wildlife. So they designed this bottle, called the WOBO bottle, to hold liquids and drinks. When it is empty, it can be filled with a stronger material and used as a building brick.

Can you see how it fits with other bottles, and how the bumps and grooves make them easy to stack? By making them rectangular, and adding a few small changes, the designer made a bottle that can now be reused in a way that is better for the environment.

Need some inspiration?

As part of V&A Innovate, a national schools design challenge, students at Trinity School, Newbury saw that wasting food and throwing away scraps was a problem for them. They tested out how they might be able to reuse these materials.

They designed a way to cover the food pieces that would have been thrown away, including orange and banana peels, in a special material that prevented it from rotting. They then turned these pieces into earrings, necklaces and rings. What once was rubbish, is now beautiful and fun pieces of jewellery to wear.

Entry for V&A Innovate by Trinity School, Newbury

Don’t forget to show us your creations on social media using #LetsMakeWednesdays

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