Arts initiative is helping divert tonnes of waste from landfill

Study shows ‘creative reuse’ project is having positive effect on creativity in schools

A project which is transforming tonnes of waste into inventive art materials has been found to significantly boost the creativity of schoolchildren.

Recreate, a not-for-profit social enterprise, diverts everyday waste – such as insulation, tiling and tubing – that is normally thrown away into a range of art and craft materials.

A new study on the impact of organisation's work by academics at Trinity College Dublin has found it is inspiring creatively among children and helping to raise awareness about care for the environment.

Prof Carmel O’Sullivan, head of Trinity’s school of education, found the group’s work was also promoting social inclusion, collaboration as well as role of reusing materials


“It is significant that in all settings and across all categories explored, the reuse materials were rated as being better or equivalent to standard art materials,” she said.

"The results from this collaborative study suggest the powerful impact of these everyday reuse materials in creating links between an inclusive, creative and sustainable society, and are very much in line with the Government's recently announced Creative Ireland initiative."

ReCreate was established three years ago by Early Childhood Ireland and South Dublin County Partnership to raise awareness around the concept of “creative reuse”.

It estimates that it is diverting about 100 tonnes of waste material from landfill annually.

The group says schools and community groups have saved substantially on their annual budgets, while children and adults alike have had access to materials not previously accessible.

Ruairí O'Donnell of St Joseph's Special School in Tallaght, which took part in the project, said it has proved a great success.

“It allowed the students to develop an innovative approach to exploring artistically with the materials. It is important for the students to see that art can be made from anything. This fosters in the students an approach that is truly creative,” he said.

Inventive pursuits

Dara Connolly, executive director of ReCreate, said the study findings show the unique advantages in reusing excess materials from industry for all kinds of creative and inventive pursuits.

“It’s encouraging real thinking outside the box and facilitating inclusion in all manners of social settings.’

The TCD study, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, also examined the role of visual arts integration in an inclusive society, and the creative connections between visual arts and environmentalism.

It found that reused materials and exploratory artistic approach created equal opportunities for all participants, while participants experienced a balanced approach to art involving process and product.

All artists and teachers indicated their commitment to continue to use reuse materials after the completion of the project.

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Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent