Ask G

Ask G: Creative recycling: arts and crafts

There's more than one way to recycle household rubbish - let the kids try artful recycling and see!

I've got kids at home, but I'm not very creative. What do I tell them when they look at me sideways and ask what to do with an empty cardboard roll?

Felicity, NSW

Cat made out of cardboard

Credit: Robyn Gallagher

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There's plenty of fun things to do with random bits and bobs of household waste!

Creative recycling is all about putting random rubbish - like empty toilet rolls - to inventive use, and goes to show there's more than one way to recycle your household waste.

Most of us can probably remember our own Mums collecting all those foil milk bottle tops for us to take into school for arts and crafts; so why not do the same?

Kindergartens and primary schools are always looking for stuff that kids can use in their art classes - if they don't get enough recycled material from the community, they have to buy things, and that can be wasteful. So why not send the kids in with some recyclables to use at school?

Even people who don't have rug-rats of their own can give their paper, egg cartons, and bottle tops to local kindys as a way to both recycle and help out education in the local community.

If at home you're really stuck for ideas, there are lots of good craft books and websites out there. One of the best is The Imagination Factory website, which is all about getting kids to use trash as materials for art. Their 'Trash Matcher' gives detailed instructions for what each piece of rubbish can be used for - see them turn that cardboard roll into a dinosaur!

Remember that enterprising kids can always turn your extra paper into papier-mache. Non-toxic glue - even the old standby mixture made out of flour and water - and a stack of old newspapers will keep them entertained for hours!

Older kids that are artistically inclined can have a go at collages or sculptures made out of rubbish. If you don't have enough in your own house, they can always get some materials off friends and neighbours for a really super-sized sculpture.

This type of garbage art is growing in popularity - see the enormous Trashasaurus Rex from the Imagination Factory, which eventually went into a children's museum in North Carolina, USA. Closer to home, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has a sculpture by famous Australian artist John Dahlsen, called Primary Totems, which, like much of Dahlsen's art, is made entirely from rubbish.

Your young budding artists will no doubt take inspiration from that!