Trash to treasure

They say one person’s trash is another's treasure.Jolene Ogle meets a woman dedicated to turning waste into functional and artistic treasures.

by @joleneogle on Friday, 11 Dec, 2015

Australians send about 50 million tonnes of waste to landfill each year. That’s over two tonnes of rubbish per person. Inspired by the utter waste, a love for art and a deep passion for the environment, Peregian Beach local Lucy Yule decided to find a way to upcycle what others see as trash.

It was when working for a company with large-scale waste that Lucy realised there was a shocking lack of upcycling services in Noosa; a region that prides itself of its UNESCO Biosphere status. She recalls seeing hundreds of long, stiff cardboard tubes piled high in the bin ready to be sent to landfill. Lucy quickly grabbed them and started to take the cardboard tubes to her children’s school for use in art and craft activities.

“It seemed crazy to see them go to waste,” she recalls. “When that school got sick of them, I began taking them to other schools in the area and I thought hang on, this is what we need; a way to connect artisans and schools with supplies that would otherwise be in landfill.”

The Trashy Artisan Cooperative (TAC) was born in 2016 and is a way for discarded materials and commercial waste to be repurposed and given a second life. Since its inception, Lucy has dedicated an entire year to the growth of the TAC, which she explains is a chance to upcycle everything from old parachutes to pool covers, carpet samples to inner-tyre tubes and every possible thing in between.

“There are businesses with so many things going to landfill and it kills them, but they don’t know of anywhere else to take them or what to do with them. It’s not worth their time to advertise them for sale. So we end up with all these discards going to landfill,” Lucy explains.

“The TAC can collect these things and redistribute them to people who do want them - such as schools, artists, and so on. They can turn them into useful things and it’s saving so much landfill.”

Recently, the TAC received a donation of over 3000 VHS cassettes. Inspired by the many moving and interesting parts of a VHS tape and wanting to show people some exciting ways trash can be used, the TAC team got busy creating what is now known as “VHS Veronica”. Made from every single part of the tape, VHS Veronica is a glamourous demonstration of how one person’s trash can be another’s treasure – and is featured on our front cover!

The black tape dress with silver belt, spindle cape and screw crown was created over four days and the TAC team are proud to show Noosa locals just what can be created from materials that would have been dumped in landfill. The TAC team haven’t stopped there with a long list of items made from upcycled materials including a drink bottle holder made from the inner-tubes of a bike tyre, a purse fashioned from VHS tape cases and hanging plant holders made from shirts, just to name a few of their creative ideas.

Fellow TAC board member and mentor Ross Hepworth says since launching the idea of the Trashy Artisan Cooperative over a year ago, the group has been inundated with businesses keen to pass on their unwanted materials that would otherwise end up in landfill. A shipping container and double-bay garage in Peregian Beach is currently crammed full of commercial discards including everything from cane baskets to bottle tops, fabric samples to foam inserts.

“It’s growing naturally into something that is much more diverse than Lucy’s original idea,” Ross says. “We’re at a point now where we’re ready for a shed and workspace.”

In fact, it is critical to the project that TAC can find a large industrial shed located within the Noosa Shire with storage space for their supplies, plus maker spaces that artisans can hire with access to tools and machinery. TAC also plans to hold workshops for anyone wanting to learn a range of skills from welding to woodwork and how to turn trash into their own treasure.

“The Trashy Artisan Cooperative space needs to be inspiring and welcoming for artisans, school students and suppliers alike,” Ross said. “We need it to have a great ambience that inspires local artists to create.”

For Ross, it’s important as many people as possible become a “Trashie”; someone who sees value in trash and either creates art from discards, contributes to the TAC supplies or helps divert waste from landfill.

“We are driven by the desire to not send stuff to landfill, to upcycle waste for a useful purpose,” Ross says. “The useful purposes we love are all about art and artisans and helping people create the things they want and make a valuable contribution. We want to help reduce landfill.”

If you have waste to share, want to become a Trashie or know about a space that might be suitable for the Trashy Artisan Collective call Lucy on 0447 022 658. There are a range of ways to get involved with the Trashie up-cycling revolution. to hear all about coming workshops and incoming discards. Businesses wanting to contribute discards and artisans and schools wanting to purchase discards can also get in touch with the TAC team through their website or by emailing Lucy on

Become a Trashie!

Have some trash and want to make something amazing? There are a range of practical and decorative items you can make at home with items destined for the bin. Lucy shares her top Trashie creations you can make at home.

  • -VHS cases – create a trendy purse by sliding fabric inside the plastic cover, attach a handle and you have a unique piece to wear to your next event.
  • -T-Shirts – often made from stretch material, t-shirts can be used to make drink bottle holders, plant hangers and even tied together to create statement rugs or coasters.
  • -Pallets – turn this unwanted timber waste into top-quality furniture or wall hangings. From bench seats to coffee tables, palettes can be treated as normal timber and used in a wide range of ways.
  • -Left-over fabric – small squares and off-cuts of fabric can be sewn together to make fun bunting for parties or kids’ rooms, or join the pieces together and make a bespoke blanket for a loved one.
  • -Coreflutes – looking for a way to repurpose a coreflute board? Cut into pieces and arrange in an attractive pattern, paint your favourite colour and use as an all-weather hanging art piece for indoors and outdoors.

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