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UPDATE (March 2020): I am rebooting the Beyond Garbage Project as a virtual collective repository for people interested in reusing materials for art (anyone – kids, adults, not just artists!). It showcases what we are making at home with the clean garbage we are creating during our relative isolation during the COVID-19 global pandemic. The information that is already on this site can be used as a resource and I will post new projects. The Reboot page tells you a bit more.

I am restarting regular updates by uploading posts with new weekly materials prompts. If you have an idea for which materials to use (especially ones that are likely to be produced by many households), let me know!

It may take a little while for me to finesse the logistics of rebooting this blog and figuring out the best way to sort and post entries, so I appreciate your patience and welcome suggestions as we go forward! Meanwhile, I have started a related Instagram page – @beyondgarbageproject – where participants can post their creations. Using the #beyondgarbageproject tag will also help people follow how this project is progressing and get ideas, etc.

Let’s join to make a creative community focused on reducing household waste and exploring the changing world we live in. Consider this preparation for Earth Day, April 22, and let’s brainstorm something we can do collectively for that day. 

This blog is a way to spur anyone interested in “doing better” with the free cool junk we have lying around. The Beyond Garbage Project started in 2009 with a primary goal to post artists’ investigations of how to reuse materials in creative ways. A group of artists representing a variety of media played with one recyclable and/or reusable material every month or two. See our investigations in the links to specific materials in the Materials links.

In 2015, I tried a Thing-a-Day Challenge, which was only mildly successful, but many of the projects reused materials, so if you peruse the posts from that experiment, you might find some inspiration for projects of your own.

If you want to keep up with all of the latest posts, see the POSTS (All) page.  At the bottom right of each post you can find a link to the categories into which the post falls, if you click on that category name, you will go to the page with all of the posts that relate to that category (November 2009 plastic bag submissions, for example).

If you are looking for resources, please visit the two Resources pages.  I acknowledge that they are sorely in need of upgrading now.  Help out by sending in links and other information about your favorite recycling and recycled art resources!

If you are interested in starting your own project, see the information about a Recycled Art contest held at Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, DC.  The forms and suggested project structure should help you on your way to a fun group activity, perhaps centered around Earth Day celebrations at your local school or in your neighborhood.


25 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen permalink
    November 22, 2009 12:29 pm

    Great idea for a blog, Jessica! I look forward to reading more and like the challenge ideas. I’m assuming there’s a group of you behind this? Big hug K

  2. Bob Hoffman permalink
    November 22, 2009 4:00 pm

    I am looking to commission work by artists to create small boxes/cases (that are worn around the neck like necklaces)from recycled materials – that are big enough to hold a harmonica.

  3. November 22, 2009 6:36 pm

    Looking forward to being inspired!

  4. November 22, 2009 8:38 pm

    Great idea. Not sure how or if I’ll be able to participate but I love the idea, and you never know…we’ll have to see what happens 😉

  5. November 23, 2009 4:25 am

    I’ve been staring at my accumulation of giant plastic white tubs of “Scoop Away” and wondering what a person could construct from them. Any ideas???

    • November 23, 2009 1:58 pm

      I have added your “plastic kitty litter tubs” to the list of Other non-Monthly Materials, in case anyone is inspired or has already used them. Now, we wait and see… Meanwhile, maybe you will come up with an idea!

    • November 26, 2009 1:56 pm

      I’ve covered them with cloth, paper, rag strips and made trash cans, planters. I wonder how hard it would be to cut them into hoops and make a mobile. Or cut them into vertical strips, still connected at the base, and weave something into them. Guess you can tell I’m a weaver! Sue

  6. November 23, 2009 4:27 am

    It just occurred to me that this blog would be a great resource for Art teachers–elementary through college. Is there a way to link up with art education?

    • November 23, 2009 2:06 pm

      Yes! Please spread the work to teachers at all levels. If anyone knows of an efficient way to get the word out to art educators and art therapists, let us know! The resources on the DIY Recycled Art Project page should help most people get started if they want to do a larger separate project. I am hoping that camps, schools, and afterschool programs will check the site for ideas, perhaps even assigning projects using the monthly materials as part of their curriculum so that they can contribute to the ongoing project. The more feedback we get every month on the current material, the better!

  7. risa permalink
    November 23, 2009 11:09 pm

    This is fantastic!

    • December 1, 2009 3:54 pm

      Thanks! And we hope it will get even better as folks send in their projects and experiments at the end of each month. Try your hand at playing with newspaper this month (December) and let us know what you some up with!

  8. November 26, 2009 1:53 pm

    I’d love to be a part of this project. Here’s a suggestion for a topic: things that can’t recycle such as bottle caps, CD’s, pens, and so on.

    • December 1, 2009 12:07 pm

      Welcome! Yes, we will be using non-recyclable materials as well. Thanks for the suggestions. FYI – See the link to Lisa Schumaier on the list at the right side of the page. She uses bottle caps in wonderful ways.

  9. December 19, 2009 4:23 pm

    Count me in! I already have ideas for he January materials. Hopefully I can carve out some time for it!

    • December 19, 2009 4:46 pm

      Wonderful! Welcome. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with. I’m having some trouble being imaginative with newspaper, but I, too, have some thoughts about aluminum pie tins.

  10. lisa0617 permalink
    December 31, 2009 2:05 am

    Hi people I haven’t started newspaper yet but I am feeling a surge of creativity coming on!

    • January 1, 2010 5:30 pm

      Yes, this has been a very difficult month to get anything done. My brain has been clicking away, but I haven’t managed to make anything happen, physically, yet. I kinda expected that to happen this month, so no worries if you all are running “late.” Maybe this is just the way we function for a few months. A week or so overlap into the next month is hardly a big deal, anyway….

      Happy New Year!! Jessica

  11. Karen Schmitz permalink
    February 7, 2010 4:21 pm

    Yes…..this is right up my alley and many artists friends…..I know many of your artists who have participated ……I was told you already did the plastic bag..but april gives you an opportunity to anytype of bag related art .
    What’s Your Bag? friend on facebook April 2-25, 2010
    or for call
    CoCurator Karen Schmitz

  12. June 18, 2010 7:20 pm


    I understand there is a wonderful guy in the Metro DC/Takoma Park area who is a good art photographer, charging reasonable fees. Can someone help identify him please?

    Thank you.

    • June 25, 2010 12:09 pm

      I am afraid that this site doesn’t really work as an information exchange except on matters related to the work at hand. Not sure how many people are checking in regularly, either. The few photographers I have tried in the DC area, whether reasonably priced or not, were not folks I would recommend to others. The search continues! If you find this miracle photographer, let me know.

  13. dedeej permalink
    November 14, 2010 8:58 pm

    Love What you are doing. I hope to participate.

  14. jared lawrence permalink
    May 13, 2011 4:00 pm

    this art is just flat out amazing. My art teachers said its fun to make something out of nothing and by gollie she was right

  15. Boak permalink
    January 13, 2012 2:19 pm

    Are postings still happening? It would be great for this blog to continue with some updated posts!

    • January 26, 2012 4:43 pm

      Yes. Slow and steady… Just posted about a craft show artist (more of them to come) and a must-see movie – Waste Land – about a Brazilian garbage dump.

  16. April 20, 2012 5:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing your blog. Great forum. I hope it leads to more good things.

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