The Rubbish Entrepreneur


Zero Waste is a concept which may seem completely unrealistic to many, a philosophy of redesigning the consumption style and the life cycle of resources so that all waste is reused, nothing is thrown away or discarded. While it is quite uncommon in our societies, there are some working examples of people living this way already, proving that it can be done! The idea of unusable waste is a purely human one, we only need to look out of our windows to be inspired by nature's natural Zero Waste cycles, reusing and recycling everything.

This activity explores how we can make use of the materials that are commonly thrown away as waste, through a process called ‘Upcycling’. Upcycling adds value to an object or material that would otherwise be thought of as worthless, this can be done through combining it with other ‘waste’ or even just finding a new use for it without much modification! Making a bag from an old bike tire, creating art from old vinyl records,using ‘scrap’ building materials to build furniture and turning organic waste into fertilizer are all examples of ‘Upcycling’.

Now it is time to be creative! Time to turn so-called waste into something useful!

Activity Type

Individual / Experiential


It can take a few hours or a few days

Learning Outcomes

  • To change our relationship to and redefine our definition of resources and waste, seeing the potential beauty in what was otherwise thought of as useless


Required Materials and Tools:

  • Trash

  • Tools to create and repair

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Get inspired!  Either individually or in a group, do some research online, read some articles, watch some videos to find some examples of Upcycling that make you feel inspired. Feel free to use the resources provided under the Resources section below.

  2. Visit some local recycling centres, dumps or scrap yards, have a look around to find things you can use to upcycle. Feel free to come up with your own ideas or just copy something cool you found in your research. [Note: It is always a good idea to check with where you are going, there are often different rules about what you can take for free etc. Remember you can always just use ‘rubbish’ from your own or friend’s and families’ homes/work.]

  3. Now it’s time to create! Even if you have decided to copy something you found online, it is encouraged to allow yourself to be creative and make your creation personal to you! Remember it is always favorable to work in a team and if you get stuck, feel free to look through the resources again and alter your idea as you go! Especially the first time round, this may take quite a while, but in the end hopefully you will have something to be very proud of.

  4. Once done, take the time for reflection. Was there any part of the process that could have been more efficient? How will you do it differently next time?

  5. Reflect on the questions: “Can I use ‘up-cycling’ in my work? “Can it be a job or business in its own right?” Debate the answer with yourself or in your group. Think who could need the object and how they would use it. How much would it potentially cost or what could it be exchanged for?



  • Why do we need to recycle and upcycle?

  • What was the most astonishing aspect of the process?

  • Do you know somebody having upcycling as their job?

  • Do you think it is a useful skill to make new things from waste materials?

Instructions for submission

Upload 1 photo of your creation and submit a promotion text on it in Moodle (so that your peers can give you feedback). The promotion text on your creation should explain why other people should buy it. Instructions on how to upload photos and how to submit things in Moodle can be found here: Instructions on Submission&Uploading

Instructions for assessment

Provide feedback to at least one participant that has done this activity. Instructions on providing feedback can be found here: Instructions on Feedback

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