Whilst walking the streets of Athens, absorbing the traffic (and fumes!) and gaining inspiration for my next shadow puppet venture, Traffic, I found myself curiously distracted by dumpsters.

Not surprising really, as they’ve always proved good places to ‘shop’ for card and puppet parts. But this time I was more interested in the dumpsters themselves; the range of colours, purpose and potential as a puppet in their own right – and look, they have faces!

My first dumpster puppet was a joy to make. I hardly had to think about which materials to use or how to construct it – it almost made itself! Scraps of green transparency plastic, odd buttons, bits of wire and old guitar strings ordered themselves into a working puppet – yes, working! Without needing to struggle with designing, I quickly and easily made an opening/closing lid-mechanism. I was delighted with my puppet and indeed myself. But alas, despair soon loomed over me. Who was I kidding? I’d used plastic that I’d bought, a silicon-glue gun, even new cardboard! Hardly a rubbish puppet at all. I felt like I’d sold-out; cheated. Funny that however much I push my way out of the box and reject the boundaries; rule enforcement and punitive treatment find their way back in.

It was a trip to Lesvos that got me back on track. In particular when I visited Mosaik Upcycling project on the island. Mosaik’s a support centre for refugees and locals that provides regular craft activities and upcycling workshops. When I visited, tiny origami-butterfly earrings were being fashioned from chocolate wrappers and pencil cases made from life jackets. It’s a great place and worth supporting. Take a look at the Safe Passage Bags

Their ‘teachings’ of using only upcycled products where possible, really resonated with me and reminded me of my ‘rubbish-ethics’ I decided I need to make another dumpster! This time it would be 100% recycled materials and furthermore, it would be a blue, recycle-dumpster!

I spent days wandering the streets, searching for a mere morsel of blue plastic. Everywhere seemed so tidy! Where had all the rubbish gone? My spirits lifted when I happened upon a neglected blue plastic drinks bottle. I rushed home to clean and iron it flat and got busy making.

100% recycled?

Very, nearly almost! Here’s the upcycled materials I used:

  • Blue, plastic drinks bottle
  • Purple plastic drinks straw
  • red and white paper drinks straw
  • Black dark chocolate wrapper: dumpster lid
  • Scrap of clear plastic: dumpster lid
  • Stick from broken placemat
  • 3 buttons
  • Foam ring: to pull string
  • Used guitar string

The new materials I used were: Sellotape, cotton thread and permanent marker to define the features. I could have used shredded electrical cables, as I’ve yards of the stuff. I was being lazy – and excited. As I was making it, I decided I would give it to a friend as a birthday present. Yes, I was that pleased with it and it worked well as a shadow puppet. What’s more, my friend liked it too.


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