Waste-Not-Want-Not! 6 Artists That Use Recycled Materials in Their Work

What do you do when you’ve finished with your newspapers, paper-based packaging, or shopping bags? Apart from recycling them, have you ever wondered what potential an old newspaper or a shopping bag could have? Given the current climate crisis we are facing, it is more important than ever that we all do our bit for the environment. However, that doesn’t have to be a mundane task in your everyday life.

Here are 6 different artists who have found new, innovative ways of utilising and upcycling materials to make something new and creative.

Chie Hitotsuyama


Artist Chie Hitotsuyama is another example of how someone can use waste paper and turn it into a work of art. The Japanese artist collects discarded daily newspapers to make life-size, lifelike, animal sculptures.

Her making process is very similar to that of the paper and pva craft, papier-mâché. She carefully selects the individual pages and pieces of newspaper based on the colour of the in on the page. The next steps are quite messy, as she wets each sheet, rolls it by hand, and then glues it into place. Some of her biggest pieces can take up to three months to make.

With such a versatile technique, she has been able to create a range of animals and creatures, ranging from Walrus’, turtles, gorillas, and many more. But what drew her to the medium of paper? She may have had hereditary ties to the paper industry already as she grew up in a family that ran a paper mill. However, she states that “A piece of newspaper is fragile and the existence of animals is vulnerable, but I feel the strength in them,” [1] You can see these paper-based masterpieces over on her website.

Yuken Teruya


New York-based artist Yuken Teruya explores the dangerous lengths of our ever-increasing gluttonous consumerist habits. He takes discarded newspapers, fast food packaging, and paper shopping bags and turns them into intricate, delicate foliage. His use of paper is seen as an act of ‘returning discarded timber back to the setting of a quiet land, reminding viewers of the fragility of our ecosystem.’ [2]

These works of art are made using a variation of the Japanese art of origami called Kirigami. As you can see here, Kirigami consists of cutting the paper up as well as folding it. The word translated from Japanese means: Kiru = ‘to cut’ gami = ‘paper’. Typically thinner paper is better for this craft, however, no glue is used to put the paper sculpture together. [3]

You can find his work in the permanent collections of many of the world’s prestigious museums and galleries, including the Saatchi and the Mori Art Museum in Japan.

Khalil Chishtee


Most of us use plastic bags to carry our groceries or wrap our lunch in, but modern artist Chistee has created life-size sculptures out of them; specifically recycled bags. Not only does this reuse a material that would be waste, Chishtee creates a metaphor for ‘recycling our identity’. [4]

The artist also wanted the viewer to question the idea of value in fine art. Such as materials that are considered more ‘valuable’ such as bronze, metals, wood or stone, and the fact that used plastic and other materials can be made into something of a similar value to these elements and shouldn’t be just cast aside after a single-use.

Derek Gores


Gores has turned his hand to the art of collage. His creations are made with shredded magazine paper, labels, and other paper-based recycled materials.
His process is an interesting one; he starts begins his projects by organising the materials by colour. He then constructs a new image from the individual torn-up pieces.

The subject matter of his art is primarily female portraiture and everyday scenes, which is reinforced by the use of everyday reused paper-based materials.

Tina Berning


Berning developed a passion for old paper that had imprints of dates or drawings on and began to draw and paint upon these herself. She said in an interview that ‘drawing on found paper means that you never know what’s happening’.

For example, you don’t know how the media i.e. paint or liquid will react on the surface; if it bubbles or if it soaks in nicely? She also said that it’s a situation where you are ‘out of control of the situation but you have to react to it.’ Her work has had an increase in interest due to her online presence and her small business as a working artist is slowly growing.

Von Wong


As we know, plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental problems that this generation faces. Between 2013 and 2019, 3% of beach litter was found to be plastic shopping bags, only 0.2% were bags made of paper. [5]

Artist Von Wong collaborated with a non-profit organisation called Zero Waste Saigon to create a large installation project to highlight the mass consumption of single-use plastics. The installation above is constructed of over 168,000 plastic straws and other recovered plastic packaging that was collected from the local streets in Vietnam by volunteers. [6]

Wong stated that he ‘wanted to encourage people to turn down their next straw by creating a ‘strawpocolypse’. The large structure was intended to be this way so that if anybody were to walk by it, they couldn’t ignore it or simply miss it. As well as collecting plastic waste from the streets, him and his team spent over 6 months collecting straws for his 10-foot tall project.

Not only are creatives utilising recycling to create with, but the current recycling rate in Europe is also 74%. Paper is being recycled on average 3.5 times a year in Europe. Paper cannot be recycled indefinitely as fibres get too short and worn out and therefore can no longer be used in creating new paper. Hence, virgin fibres from trees are needed to continue the cycle. These new fibres come from renewable, sustainably managed forests and continue the loop.

If looking at all these artists’ work has left you inspired, why not head over to Love Paper Creations where you’ll find plenty of paper-based crafts that you can download, print out and get crafting.


1. OnEarth, 2016
2. Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling, 2019
3. Dictionary.com, 2021
4. My Modern Met, 2012
5. Marine Litter Watch, 2019
6. Von Wong Blog, 2018

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