The Art of Recycled Plastic (part 1): Innovative uses of plastic waste

Recycled Plastic Art

Plastic recycling is a fascinating topic, and we at Plasgran, have always held this opinion. Beyond serving a myriad uses for a wide range of industries, and for users at home, plastics are also being utilised in innovative ways to inspire positive change. In recent years there has been a growing number of artists using plastic waste to not only create art, but more significantly, to create awareness of the importance of plastic recycling.

In the first of a series of posts, we explore some of these campaigns for environmental awareness taking place around the globe.


artist mbongeni buthelezi plastic art paintings

Whilst many artists work with paint and oils, South African artist Mbongeni Buthelezi specialises in an unconventional medium. He is known for transforming everyday, unassuming plastic waste into sought-after works of art. First he heats pieces of plastic with a heat gun, then applies the melted form onto a black plastic background that doubles as a canvas. By layering and positioning bits of recycled plastic, Buthelezi is able to create incredible portraits and mosaics that remarkably resemble oil paintings!

south african artist buthelezi plastic oil paintings

This is how Buthelezi describes what he does: “I collect rubbish and create something beautiful from it. I collect something that has no value and give it new life. That’s what we can do with ourselves and our lives.”


Hot air balloon

Another artist taking plastic waste to new heights is Argentinian Tomás Saraceno, whose art installation features the ubiquitous plastic bag, generally made from low-density (LDPE) or high-density polyethylene (HDPE). The giant recycled plastic exhibition is essentially an enormous hot air balloon made of used plastic bags!

recycled plastic bags hot air balloon

Aptly called “Becoming Aerosolar”, the balloon is functional, in theory, and solar powered; when heated by the rays of the sun, the plastic bags float upwards. Saraceno’s hot air balloon of recycled polyethylene is on display in Vienna, Austria at the 21er Haus art museum till August 30th.



veronika richterova plastic pet bottle art

One Czech artist’s choice of medium is the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic bottle, a type of plastic that can be recycled again and again. For the last decade, Veronika Richterová has collected more than 3,500 PET plastic bottles from 96 countries. She has experimented with different techniques of cutting, heating and assemblage to create plastic forms of everything, from chandelier light fixtures, to ‘living creatures’ such as crocodiles and plants.

polyethylene terephthalate PET plastic art

Similar to the other two artists, Richterová aims to show the world that today’s litter can be turned into tomorrow’s masterpieces. Or in practical terms, reprocessing plastic into new and useful items.


Marine life

pet polyethylene terephthalate plastic whale art

Our story of environmental awareness takes us back to the UK, where a mammoth installation in Bristol features life-sized whales, made from willow, swimming in a ‘sea’. This sea is made up of 70,000 recycled plastic bottles, used earlier in the year during the Bristol 10k run and Bath half marathon.

The sea of recycled plastic PET bottles symbolises the detrimental effects of plastic pollution on the ocean, including killing marine life, poisoning the food chain, and smothering the sea bed. The aim of the installation is to encourage the public to reduce consumption of single use plastics and to recycle, where possible.


Inspiring positive change

As plastic recycling specialists, we think it is amazing that these artists are using their skills to educate and influence the public to take steps towards positive change. If you are interested in learning more about plastic recycling, please see the Plasgran guide to plastic recycling grades. Or take a look at our website to see the many ways we help businesses with recycling their plastic.

Stay tuned to our blog for the next part in our series exploring The Art of Recycled Plastic, where we will showcase more innovative uses of plastic.

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