This post was written by Get Artistic Artist-in-Residence, Abigail West.
Ah, if only it were so simple.
Unfortunately, those little triangular recycling symbols on the bottom of plastic packaging don’t actually always tell you whether or not that product can go in the recycling bin—or if it can feasibly be recycled at all.
A lot of materials that seem like they should be able to be recycled are actually incredibly difficult to process post-consumer, for different reasons depending on the product. Some of these things, like plastic bags, other stretchy film plastics, and clean styrofoam, can be taken to the Athens CHaRM, or Center for Hard to Recycle Materials.
But what about everything else? Look around your home and you’re bound to find some hard-to-recycle materials that you can’t take to the CHaRM. Here are some I found in my own home:
For the last couple months, I’ve been experimenting with Creature Comforts’ hard to recycle brewery materials. With each batch of beer, they need grain and hops, which come in packaging surprisingly similar to what I found in my home kitchen.
Step 1. Select and prep your material. If you’re using something with a food residue, you’ll want to give it a good clean with a rag and some soapy water or diluted alcohol. I’m using the Yakima Chief hop bags, and opted not to clean them because the hops smell so good!
Step 2. Cut out a bunch of your desired shape! These could be circles, squares, triangles, flowers, anything you like. They don’t need to be perfectly uniform: imperfections remind us that these have been processed by hand, unlike the machines that mass-produced the original packaging.
Tip: experiment with shapes you like, and once you decide on one, fold over the material to cut through two layers at once.
Step 3. Start creating the streamers. I like using the sewing machine, feeding the pieces in one at a time. It feels like feeding coins into a slot machine. The sewn element also serves as further reminder that I’m making something by hand and not by automated machine.
If you don’t have access to a sewing machine, though, you can hot glue the pieces together, carefully overlapping each. Be sure to use enough glue that they stick, but not so much that it gets everywhere. Wipe away any hot glue spider web strands that form and you won’t be able to tell you used hot glue at all.
Below are some shots of streamers made from hop bags and grain bags, using different shapes and sizes.
@creaturecomfortsbeer and @upinthewoods.
Note: for a full list of what can and can’t be recycled, be sure to check with your local recycling center. If you’re in Athens-Clarke County, you can find that here.