Idealistic upcycling

I’ve been picking up bottles from the streets in town for a number of years, recycling and upcycling them, and I like the double benefit of removing litter and making something nice to show from it. When I’m out walking in the Lake District fells, occasionally I come across litter around the paths, which gets picked up, but also at odd times I find discarded beer bottles which I find particularly annoying, as it’s disrespectful and selfish, not to mention a long term environmental hazard to wildlife and walkers alike.

Discarded bottle

Discarded bottle

One such example is this discarded Stella bottle, which I spotted embedded in a riverbank near Troutbeck Bridge. I recovered it, and thought about making something to compliment the area it was recovered from. I cleaned and separated the bottle bottom using the processes I’ve outline several times on this blog before. I selected a green on white baroque glass, as the green flows and white wisps are reminiscent of the lake district fells and rolling clouds. I also had a deep green water glass that complimented the bottle centre, so went with this for the 10mm border, and finished with a black polished patina.

Troutbeck suncatcher

Troutbeck suncatcher

 I’m pleased with this one, in particular because it’s something nice made out of what is ultimately a selfish and inconsiderate act of littering one of the most beautiful areas in the world. I’m hoping to make more specifically from bottles I might come across in my fell walking, maybe making a little series of sun-catchers that come from salvaged Lake District litter, hopefully I might even be able to raise some funds in lieu from them for a Lake District charity like ‘Fix The Fells’. That would really be the ultimate full-circle upcycling to me.

Street salvage

I’ve been finding beer bottles particularly useful and good to work with so far, but being teatotal for a few years now, sourcing them was always going to be slightly more problematic than it could have been a while back. People put a few out in their green recycling boxes, but as it’s a shared system with paper round here, it’s not a good idea to be poking about in other peoples bins – leave that to the ID thieves!  A few donations have come in , but a chance discovery when walking to work made the penny drop on a potentially very good source that I hadn’t even thought of – the streets, gutters and flora around them.

There’s plenty of people who just throw their bottles down on the street, toss them into bushes, or leave them half-drunk on someones gatepost. I’ve found well over a dozen already just on the ten minute walk to and from work in just a few weeks. It’s surprising how resilient the bottles are to being tossed down and kicked about on tarmac, with only the odd tiny little scuff found on a few. Most have cleaned up beautifully, though there has been the odd slug to deal with inside a couple of them!

Reusing bottles that will just end up smashed in a bottle bank has been fun so far, but I must admit I really like the idea of taking an abandoned bottle that some careless drinker has discarded on the street, and still managing to make it into something very presentable. That’s got to be an ultimate form of recycling – saving discarded glass bottles from being smashed and stood on, run over by car tyres, thrown through someones window or just being old fashioned litter, and giving them a new use. A win-win situation for everyone and the environment. Any parts that are not reused or I break are returned to recycling banks, so all street salvage I collect avoids landfill, which might not always be the case if street cleaners pick them up. I’m getting quite eagle-eyed in spotting the glint of a green bottle in bushes even when it’s dark.

Just for personal interest, I’m running a tally of the number of bottles that have been rescued and reused from the streets as litter at the bottom of the left sidebar on this blog.