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Supported by Generation Green

Wasted creatures

Upcycle litter into artistic garden ornaments with this creative craft.

You will need

  • Clean items of recycling
  • A4 paper
  • Coloured pens or pencils
  • Something to protect surfaces (for example, newspaper or tablecloths)
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Scissors
  • Craft materials (for example, tissue paper, pipe cleaners, stickers)
  • Permanent markers
  • Sticks
  • Glue gun
  • Device to take photos (optional)
Activity Plan Wasted Creatures
PDF – 577.6KB

Before you begin 

  • Everyone should collect clean items of household recycling, especially food packaging like plastic bottles, tins, lids and yoghurt pots.

Safety checklist

Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional coronavirus-related controls to think about may include: 

  • Setting up a hand washing station that you can use throughout the session. Everyone should wash their hands before and after they use equipment and after handling earth.
  • Making sure you have enough equipment like paintbrushes so no one has to share. 
  • Making sure everyone’s recycling stays separate – people shouldn’t swap or share items.

Understand upcycling

  1. Everyone should talk about upcycling, which is a great way to recycle old, damaged or broken items.
  1. Discuss the environmental benefits of upcycling.

Get inspiration from the great outdoors

  1. Everyone should split into small groups. If possible, each group should have a device to take photos.
  2. Each group should explore a green space to get inspiration for their ornaments. You could visit a garden show, exhibition or museum. If you aren’t able to get out and about, consider bringing in gardening magazines or doing research on the internet so everyone can look at different garden designs.
  3. Each group should take photos or capture screenshots of the elements of nature which grab their attention, and look out for any ornaments in the green spaces.

Design time

  1. Everyone should set out their clean items of recycling.
  2. Guided by the shapes and sizes of the items, everyone should take inspiration from green spaces to turn this rubbish into ornaments which capture an element of nature.
  1. Lay down something to protect the surfaces. Everyone should use paint to give all their items a strong base colour that suits their design.
  2. While everything is drying (this usually takes at least half an hour), everyone should start adding features. For an animal, cut out scraps of plastic to make fins, wings, ears or tails. Depending on the thickness of the plastic, you may need to use craft scissors.
  3. Everyone should paint their features and wait for everything to dry.
  4. Assemble all the items and features using a glue gun.
  5. Everyone should add finishing touches. You could draw stripes or dots on the body of an animal using marker pens, or add antennae by gluing on pipe cleaners or pom-poms.
  6. Everyone should attach one end of a stick to their creation using a glue gun.
  7. Everyone should help clear up, making sure any unused items are recycled. Be careful of sharp edges.
  8. Everyone should find a home for their garden ornament. Try getting in touch with a local community area and see if they have any outdoor space in need of some brightening up, or sell your crafts to raise money for a cause you’re passionate about.


This activity was all about valuing the outdoors by noticing the beauty in nature and brightening up outdoor spaces and helping your community by finding ways to reuse items that would otherwise be thrown away. Did the group find anything particularly fun or challenging about this crafty activity? Why did they pick that particular animal, plant or element of nature to base their ornament on? The group might have been inspired by the location their ornaments were going to be put in, or maybe they took inspiration from their recycled items and created something with a similar shape to a bottle or tin.


All activities must be safely managed. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.


Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Gardening and nature

Everyone must wash their hands after the activity has finished. Wear gloves if needed. Explain how to safely use equipment and set clear boundaries so everyone knows what’s allowed.

Sharp objects

Teach young people how to use sharp objects safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Glue and solvents

Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using glue and solvent products. Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. Be aware of any medical conditions which could be affected by glue or solvent use and make adjustments as needed.

Rubbish and recycling

All items should be clean and suitable for this activity.

Hot tools
  • Tools such as irons and glue guns produce a lot of heat. Never touch the hot metal parts. Use them under adult supervision and on a suitable surface, protecting it if necessary.
  • Don’t leave hot tools unattended and be careful near combustible materials such as wood, textiles, or paper. Make sure there’s a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit (with items to treat burns) nearby.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use. You may need to use gloves and safety goggles with glue guns.