A massive issue in the UK is that more than half of our recyclable waste ends up in landfill or is destroyed.
22 million small items of furniture, more than 11,000 bicycles and over 28 million toys are thrown away each year, with fewer than one in 10 people attempting to repair their broken or damaged furniture.
This level of waste is placing huge demands on our countryside to create new landfill sites which contribute hugely to climate change and air pollution through greenhouse gases they release.
Waste is not only an environmental problem but also an economic loss. Many of these discarded items could be reused by low income families and people in crisis.
We can all do things to help tackle our ‘throw away’ culture. This challenge is all about looking at the items in our own homes that we deem useless or unwanted and transforming them into items we love.
Your Challenge: Upcycle at home!
Think of something at home you can upcycle rather than throw away. Start with something easy.
Decoupage is one technique that can bring old furniture to life.
Materials you’ll need:
- Glue (PVA)
- Brush for the glue
- Varnish (matt or gloss depending on the finish you want) and separate brush for varnish.
- Wrapping paper/ comics/ tissue paper/ decoupage paper
- Select an item of furniture which is looking like it needs new life. This could be a side table top (just the surface) or a full item. If you don’t have an item of furniture, you can practice this with a photo frame.
- OPTIONAL: if you want the colours to stand out, you can paint your item with a base coat of white. This is not essential, so feel free to skip to point 3.
- Tear your chosen paper up into small pieces (4-3 cm wide), they can be rough and different sizes and shapes.
- Paste a layer of glue onto the item (flat surfaces are easier to start with). Place a piece of paper onto the glue and use your brush to smooth down with another layer of glue on top. You’ll have glue underneath and on top of the paper. Be sure to smooth out any air bubbles with the brush and place the paper down in a way that avoids creases or air bubbles. Air bubbles will get fewer as you get more familiar with the technique.
- Layer your papers to ensure the surface is fully covered. If you’ve done Papier-mâché before, it’s a similar technique.
- If you’re not happy and want to start again, the great thing about this upcycling technique is you can easily pull it off and restart.
- Once you’re happy with you finished design, allow the item to dry and then varnish. You may want to varnish a few layers depending on what the item is (e.g tables which will hold hot drinks could do with additional layers of varnish).
What Groundwork is doing
The Loops Project
The ‘Loops’ are two award winning community reuse hubs in Hackney and Barnet designed to help communities recycle and reuse more household goods, which reduces fly-tipping and amount of waste sent to landfill sites.
At The Loops we collect, repair, up-cycle and sell unique, reasonably priced furniture and other household goods. Many local people have become part of the re-use movement with the Loops also providing training, employment and volunteering opportunities for residents in a range of specialist skills, including furniture restoration.
We offer free courses in upholstery, home improvement, power tools, paints and wood finishing products, decoupage, stencilling, and more.
REWORK is Groundwork’s refurbish and reuse project in Wandsworth, where repairable white-goods (predominantly fridges/freezers and washing machines) are fixed up by trainees who are getting back into work. It’s one of the busiest and best equipped domestic appliance repair workshops in the country. The trainees at the workshop have all been out of work for some time. We employ them as apprentices in electrical engineering and maintenance, helping them to gain the experience and the skills necessary to embark on a new career.
Last year through Groundwork’s REWORK and Loops programme we diverted 315 tonnes of household goods from landfill – equivalent to the weight of 25 double decker buses – at the same time as creating training opportunities, jobs and bringing communities together.