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Upcycling – Is it so, that everything needs to be new?

If we want to live in a clean, healthy environment, we need to consider our habits and introduce new ones, those connected with rubbish and the 3R rule. It is worth to get to know the idea of upcycling (using waste materials to create new products of higher quality) and the zero waste philosophy.


Author and translation: Anna Książek

Proofreading: Andrea Pucci


Main objectives:

  • Getting to know different ecological methods of dealing with so much rubbish

During the workshop the participants will:

  • Get to know the 3R approach (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)

  • Get to know the rules for the segregation of rubbish

  • Get inspired to do upcycling


Task before the meeting:

Participants bring for the meeting things they believe are not useful anymore: cardboard, bottles, used packages, etc.

1. Bingo (exercise)

Every participant gets a „Bingo” card. The task is to find a person which meets the particular criteria (for example, in his/her house people use fabric bags instead of single-use one). Once we have found the right person, we write his/her name in the relative rubric. The winner is the person who fills first all rubrics, considering that each name can appear in the Bingo table only once.

BINGO - Find a person which:

Uses a fabric bag instead of single-use one during shopping.


Segregates rubbish.


Chooses local products, for example fruits and vegetables from the farmer’s market.


Shops with a shopping list – doesn’t buy unnecessary items.


Uses accumulators instead of normal batteries.


Doesn’t use paper napkins, use fabric ones instead.


2. Yes and no (exercise)

Prepare two paper, one with a big ”yes” and one with a big “no”, and stick them on opposite walls. Then, read one by one the sentences written below. The participants have to stand on the line between “yes” and “no”, depending on how much they agree with a sentence. Before reading a new sentence, give the participants time to share their opinions and arguments connected with the topic. In particular, ask for the opinion of those who stand on the opposite sides of the room.

Examples of sentences

  • It’s better to repair a computer than buy a new one.

  • It’s better to buy drink in a plastic container, which is light, than a glass package.

  • We should buy products in small packages, in big one they can get spoiled or expired before we manage to use them.

  • Segregation of rubbish should be mandatory.

  • Shops should give plastic bags to clients for free.

  • Nice packaging is a sign of high quality of the product.

  • Buying things in second hand shops is trendy, because in that way we protect the environment.

3. 3R rule (discussion)

Explain that today meeting is related to the topic of waste. Talk with the participants for a while about that issue. Do participants see any problem connected with rubbish? What kind of problems? Do they think that the amount of rubbish we produce can be a challenge? Why? Do they have any idea how we can reduce the amount of waste we produce?

4. 3R – what‘s the meaning (exercise)

Divide the participants in 3 groups. Each group gets one of the 3R rules: reduce, reuse, recycle. The task of the group is to discuss how they understand the particular rule and create as many ways as possible to put this rule into practice (what can we do to reduce/reuse/recycle waste?). If needed, support the groups, pointing them toward the right direction. All groups write down their ideas on a big piece of paper. At the end every group presents the result of its work, people from other groups can contribute with other ideas.

5. Riddle

How others deal with the 3R rule? Give the participants the text of a riddle. They can solve it individually or in pairs. Which ideas of Ana, Julia, Eve and Valentina seem interesting for you and why?


Source: M. Świderek, Akademia 3R, ss59_108_cwiczenia_aktywizujace.pdf, s. 94–95

Ana, Julia, Eve and Valentina have a common aim: they want to live in a clean, healthy world, in which you don’t have to worry where the next dump will be created. They want to be responsible consumers, each of them respects the 3R rule every day and puts into action interesting ideas for limiting the amount of rubbish. Their ideas:

  • finding old bicycles, repairing them, painting in fancy colors and fashionable patterns and then selling to friends

  • managing the Internet platform “clothes exchange” for young parents, which allows them to exchange clothes for small children

  • organizing monthly events for exchanging books, during which participants can give away books they read already and get those which they are interested in

  • designing and making artistic jewelry from waste, like caps, wood, felt, parts of computers.

The girls bond over their love to nature, but each of them does different things in her daily life: among them we have a doctor, a designer from an advertisement company, a garden designer and the owner of a café:

  • Ana works in the advertisement agency, which is specialized in social campaigns.

  • The person who organizes the books exchange takes care of sick people in hospital on the maternity ward.

  • Valentina is not the owner of the café.

  • Special collection of jewelry from recycling was not made by Eve.

  • Ana doesn’t lead a website.

  • Julia is not a doctor and she doesn’t repair bicycles.

  • Valentina doesn’t organize book exchanges and Eve is not designing gardens.

  • The person who owns the café doesn’t help parents to exchange clothes through the Internet.

Guess the waste-reduction project and the profession for each girl.

6. Stories about upcycling

Tell the participants the stories (and present the relative photos) about “Forewear” "Latin Latas" and “Tonle”, companies which use upcycling.

Then, have a look at the items brought by participants and you as a leader, objects which seem to be not useful anymore. Think in small groups what you can do with them. Maybe a pot for flowers from bottles or jars? Frames for pictures? A penholder? A case for jewelry? For whom it can be useful? For you? Your family? Friends? Maybe children from the orphanage house? Or elderly from the nursery house? Once you made the decision about what to do, just start doing!

7. Upcycling – making things from “waste” material

According to possibilities, interests, and abilities, the participants make new objects from the things brought for the meeting, for example bracelets and necklaces from old T-shirts, pot from plastic bottles, lampions from jars, containers from paper, bags from old billboards, etc. Use your imagination or look for ideas on the Internet.

Examples of upcycling products prepared by Papillon, a social start-up from Baku, Azerbaijan.

8. Local or global problem (video and discussion)

Discuss together whether rubbish is a local or a global problem. Why? Does rubbish go somehow from one country to another? If yes, how? Think about polluted rivers and air, but take also into consideration things like shipping rubbish to other (usually poorer) countries or even continents. Why does it happen? What are the consequences? Watch the video Story of stuff, in which rubbish is one of the topic ( or get to know the story of “Mantanani. Hell and Paradise”.

7. Summary

Ask the participants what they learned during the meeting. What will they change in their daily life? What can you do with things you made during the meeting? When would you finish them (if needed)?


Additional tasks for group:

  • Give your upcycling items to people for whom they can be useful. Consider carefully if they really need them.

  • Organize an exchange event in which you swap objects (books, clothes), invite also people outside your group.

  • Use the 3R rule in your daily life. For few weeks write down your successes and challenges. Share your experience with others.

  • Organize a campaign promoting the 3R rule in a group of choice (e.g. classmates, parents, grandparents, neighbors).

  • Prepare rubbish bins for segregation in your meeting room. Write down the instructions for correct segregation and put them above the bins, it will be useful for those who don’t remember all the rules.

  • Organize design and sewing workshops as well as a fashion show, during which you will present clothes, prepared using upcycling.

  • Organize a workshop to teach jewelry making out of waste material.

  • Go to a handcraft or a designer workshop which works with upcycling.


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