Life has been speeding along for decades with technology advancements leap frogging over each other at frightening rates; from faster cars to smarter phones, from producing food out of merely chemicals, to sticking those processed food-stuffs into individual 100 calorie packages in order to help curb the obesity epidemic, there seems to always be a more convenient way to accomplish anything and dag-nabbit we aren’t going to stop until we find it!

However, with all of this technology and advancement we’ve obviously neglected certain byproducts of our own genius, one of which is the amount of waste we’ve produced for the sake of convenience, or simply due to lack of attention, or too much ignorance. After these long decades of blind foresight, we’ve started to take a look into the past for reasons why our present kind of sucks, and to the future to figure out how we can make it brighter. We’ve taken a look around at the piles of trash we’ve amassed taking up perfectly good land throughout the country and said ‘hmm, these landfills are getting full – perhaps we should do something about that.’

Leave it to the creative minds of our country, as opposed to the geniuses who invented the motorized ice cream cone (no, I’m not kidding),to come up with a solution that not only addresses the problem of waste disposal, but also to create something beautiful out of it. Groups and artists are sprouting up who are dedicated to taking waste products that would traditionally end up rotting the rest of their days away surrounded by the sad trash community, and using that ‘waste’ to express creativity and create socially responsible art.

Philadelphia’s trash to treasure group is called RAIR (recycled artist-in-residency) and are committed to “connecting art and sustainability.” After scouring around a local recycling company, Revolution Recovery in Northeast Philly for over a year, the group has completed their first full show at the University of the Arts called “The Waste Dream”. Featuring recycled materials, the show’s purpose is to draw attention to unorthodox uses of materials, and a connection between art and industry.

Revolution Recovery also donated their materials to another art show called “Constructing the Wissahickon” by Leah Frankel at the Germantown Academy, located outside of Philadelphia. In an ironic twist, Leah began scouring the material yard at Revolution Recovery without knowing that she was pillaging through materials recovered from the Germantown Academy’s own construction site – kind of a stealing from Peter to feed Paul type of scenario where everybody wins! This experience of the young Frankel also provides an ironic example of how one person’s trash can become another’s (or even that same person’s) conversation piece, and hopefully will inspire others to think twice before throwing materials away.

Another group of recycling artists is a little more defined, having 20 years of experience on the newly formed RAIR in Philly. Based out of the recycling company Recology in San Francisco, this artist-in-residency program actually inspired the creation and structure of RAIR, developed across the country. Recology’s latest show in September showcases several different mediums of sculpture, including jewelry, sewing and embroidery, and painting as embellishment to the found materials used to create the unique sculptures of professional artists and students alike. Over 100 artists have completed 4 month long residencies, helping to fulfill the company’s goals of “encouraging the conservation of natural resources and instill a greater appreciation for the environment and art in children and adults.”

These artists take reusing to a whole new level, and through the art they create they show that with a little creativity and dedication the landfills across America are not the only option for waste. Hopefully, this craze of recycled art can become as commonplace as those 100 calorie snack bags in the grocery store, and perhaps someday soon we’ll see an exhibit built solely from those crinkly, plastic bags instead of simply throwing them on top of the pile and adding to the mess.

Author's Bio: 

Rubi Wiswall is a copy writer for Web-Wis-dom, a design firm based out of Philadelphia.

Revolution Recovery is a recycling company specializing in construction waste, who donates their materials to worthy groups such as those listed above.