Tag Archives: upcycling


From flower pot to soap bar holder

Credits for this go to my flat mate, a genuine upcycling queen! I love these simple and cool upcycling ideas that are using very common waste, like those small pots you get plants in – herbs for your kitchen, flowers for the balcony or plants for the garden. They come in those plastic pots that are usually thrown away. By cutting them so that the lower fifth remains and turning them around you can create a simple and good-looking soap bar holder. Love it!



From milk carton to book cover

Trying to reduce as much packaging as possible there is still some around. Milk cartons from soy or oat milk for example – when there was no time to make it myself. Instead of throwing them away they are cut at the bottom and rinsed out. Sometimes they get a second life as a storage container for soup that goes in the freezer. In spring they are turned into tubs to grow seedlings for the garden. They also work as a book cover for note books or calendars. The silver inside of the carton is a great contrast to the outside print. With an older tough sewing machine there was no trouble getting through two layers of carton. With one of the newer “plastic” ones I would not recommend this. Instead maybe try hot glue, a staple gun or a hole puncher plus a thick string. For decoration and further attachment options I wrapped a bicycle tyre around the front cover. Inside the book cover is a school calendar. An elastic around the back of the cover allows for the attachment of an additional note book. Here is the story in pictures:

Front with pen holder and tyre decoIMG_5317.JPGLast page. I did a bad sewing job at the top…getting used to the material.IMG_5322.JPGFirst page inside. The colorful note book on the right is attached via a blue elastic that you can see in the next picture.IMG_5318.JPG

IMG_5319.JPGLast page with the calender and a drawing booklet inside.IMG_5321.JPG


From milk carton…IMG_5324.JPG


..to book cover.IMG_5323.JPG


From cigarette butts to park benches

The upcycling field is professionalizing. I previously wrote about art galleries and fashion stores in Berlin. Another interesting concept is brought forward by TerraCycle.  One of their projects is turning cigarette butts into plastic products like park benches. Smokers, clubs or restaurants can collect and mail their cigarette waste to a collection point. There it is sorted and components like plastics are extracted. The project is funded by tobacco companies (it is assumingly useful for their sustainability report).

TerraCycle is mainly recycling waste that is conventionally not easy to recycle. People can send them their Colgate toothbrush, Nespresso capsules, drink pouches, diapers or electronic waste (ipods, laptops, phones). Each is collected under a different project (“Brigade”) and funded by different companies. The reward for each item send in is either a donation to a non-profit organisation  or  – for larger scale shipments above e.g. 100 pieces – TerraCycle points can be collected and redeemed for charitable gifts or product bundles.  

Shipments are usually free and there are collection points in 9 countries such as US, Australia, Canada and Germany. More info can be found on their website: www.terracycle.eu/#/world

Flower pots from plastic waste

Waste, no its not to waste. It can be resourceful – Just a matter of perspective.

Upcycling means to give higher value to something that has lost its purpose or meaning. It means re-using things and adding value through creativity. Instead of throwing the bags that contained my coffee beans I look for their other possible functions.



One of the things with the shortest lifespan are plastic wrappings and bags. During one of my last workshops I made various flower pots from plastic bags, drink cartons, floppy disks and washing liquid plastic bottle. For the outer layer I used a good looking bag or box, for the inner pot I used a bag or box that I filled with soil and plants. Two drainage holes are cut into the bottom. For convenience the inner pot stands on the cut off bottom of a plastic bottle like in the picture below.

The workshop table during pot production.
A beautiful plastic bag that once held rice is covering a milk carton with two drainage holes, filled with soil and plants.

And here is how to make germination pots from milk cartons.



Even better is this vertical garden using milk cartons. When using the same package it looks pretty good! Now you just need to look after the plants ;)


Plastic – reduce, reuse, upcycle

Plastic is a crazy material. In comes in various forms and is omnipresent. Once you start looking for it you see it everywhere. Packaging of food and drinks, household tools, our tooth brush, even in our cloths in the form of polyester. The exact components are often a secret by the producer. The main component however is raw oil, a scarce resource. Once turned into plastic it takes hundreds of years to decompose. Since we use it much and only shortly it is a real environmental problem. In the decomposing process micro plastic enters the food chain. It fills the stomach of animals and carries bacteria. Through meat, hot food and drinks on plastic it enters our body. Studies have shown that plastic has entered out blood stream and can lead to infertility. The documentary Plastic Planet gives a good insight on its reach.

The best way is to avoid plastic as much as possible. A simple start is buying fresh products e.g. at the market and bringing your own bag. When shopping elsewhere I try to buy products in larger packages or in paper bags or cartons. Pioneers, experimenters and fore thinkers are showing that there are many ways to reduce it with homemade beauty or cleaning products.

Another problem is it’s short lifetime. Plastic bags for example are used 25min on average. Upcycling them means adding value to them and making them usable longer. Plastic bags can be ironed together into a robust larger plastic sheet or they can be knitted, braided and crocheted with. They also make for good flower pots. Plastic bottles and milk cartons can be turned into a vertical garden. More inspiration can be found here.


Upcycling Art in Berlin

Now I do Upcycling as a hobby. What comes across my way is worked with as a resource, I do workshops and I gift my friends with the upcycled goods. But some people have turned it into their job and are professionalizing the field. In the search for a 50th birthday present for my aunt I went to visit some.

El Reinventor for example is upcycling instruments and other antique things into light objects. He also works with bicycle parts, coat hangers and whatever you bring to him. One of his specialties is that he works with people on their old objects and turns them into something really unique.


At the Bright Side Werkstatt, Brunnenstraße 26 in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin you find him. El Reinventor. It’s worth a visit to look at his art, even better if you feel like working on something with him. Its a workshop and gallery in one. He has some great tools, and an even greater humor and creativity.

When I came to visit him he showed me around and shared some backdoor secrets. We then sat in front of his gallery in the sun where he showed me how to turn a coat hanger into an angle holding my toilet paper. Gold!


Even better I found his light installation from telescope legs and a trumpet. For more information visit him online www.elreinventor.com or on facebook www.facebook.com/elReinvent0r

Just around the corner is the Upcycling Fashion Store. From clothes to accessories and gifts they have a large range of things from different artists in and around Berlin. I found little wallets from leather gloves, handbags from offset printing covers,… They also organize events and report on the latest news in the upcycling scene on www.upcycling-fashion.com. There is now even an upcycling fashion road map for Berlin. Thank you!



Vertical gardens from upcycled material

When there is not much room for a garden you have to go up. Vertical gardens are great for small spaces. Ideally you choose plants that climb up like beans and peas. But strawberries also work. It depends on the construction. What have you got around?

There are many materials that can be used in upcycling. One example are vertical gardens from plastic bottles like described in this post: Strawberry Tower from Plastic.

verticalstrawberry garden vertical plastic garden

Other materials are milk cartons strapped to a fence or wooden pallets like in these pictures taken at urban gardens in Berlin:

Prinzessinengarten Berlin / Vertical Garden from Wood Pallets

Another way to use wood pallets is shown in the below picture, a more professional approach with an irrigation system.

Klunkerkranich Berlin / Vertical Garden from pallets

Drink cartons accumulate over time in most households. Turned upside down they work as flower pots. When leaving the cap part open at the bottom it is a perfect drainage system. They can be hung onto a fence or balcony.

Prinzessinengarten Berlin / Vertical Garden from Milk Cartons

The sky is the limit.