The Art of Creative Repurposing

Trends / Sustainability
Simon McGill
Sandra Michalska
Apr 6, 2023
What happens with those plastic bottles that fail to keep pace with sustainable progress? With plastic forks, cups, or floating bags—once romanticized by Sam Mendes in the 2000's classic American Beauty? While plastic waste production has stirred public debate for years, what kind of creativity lingers in those undesired objects, moving them from harm toward a circular mindset?
As the collective, sustainable consciousness grows, so does the circular culture. According to our VisualGPS consumer survey, reusing, repairing, or purchasing second‑hand instead of buying new is now routine for nearly half of Europeans. Frugal and resourceful, people across generations are embracing creative repurposing, with nearly one‑third already purchasing products that can be used for other purposes beyond their primary use.

Now, this resourcefulness is in the making for a few years already, with many brands jumping on the bandwagon. From McDonald’s creating swimwear from plastic straws1, Adidas designing sustainable tennis courts on water2, to finally Rose in Good Faith creating sneakers from… recycled sex toys3... the upcycling creativity game is on. Yet the ideas involved in extending the lifespan of undesired plastic waste are not only anecdotal activations. They speak a lot about the human capacity to innovate and find solutions.

What if the sustainable journey of your products was a new selling point? Our VisualGPS image testing shows that people are drawn into graphical and educational visuals showing a product's sustainable lifecycle, from ethical sourcing to transforming it into something else, whether it's through recycling, upcycling, or creative repurposing. However, the analysis of visuals downloaded by our customers shows that brands still rarely step beyond recycling scenarios to illustrate circularity. Now, after years of rightful plastic backlash, we predict that we'll be seeing even more creative uses of plastic waste that already exists. Nothing is lost, everything is transformed.
1 McDonalds Straws Get an Upcycled Upgrade to Swimwear (McDonalds)
2 Adidas + parley serve a recycled tennis court on australia's great barrier reef (Design Boom)
3 Viral shoes created from sex toys return in "crème brûlée" colorway (Hypebae)
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