You probably have a reusable shopping tote (check), refillable insulated water bottle (check), and maybe even a compost bin out back (check). But for those looking to further reduce their impact on the planet, reusing what will become waste is the way to go.
It’s around this idea of radical reuse that HP challenged TikTok creators to transform their plastic refuse into something beautiful, useful, or inventive and share it with the #HPRadicalReuse hashtag. These creators are finding alternative uses for plastic items that would normally be trashed and perhaps join the estimated 11 million metric tons that make its way into the world’s ocean each year.
The social media challenge dovetails with the release of a new ad campaign by HP, called “Parallel Lives,” that shows the devastating effects of plastic pollution, and calls upon all of us to do our part to prevent it.
“As a storyteller and creative, I feel it’s my responsibility to do all I can and to protect this beautiful planet for future generations to enjoy,” says Alison Teal, an adventure traveler, filmmaker, and ocean conservation advocate who grew up off the grid with her globe-trotting parents, National Geographic photographer David Blehert and yoga instructor Deborah Koehn. “Recycling is a step in the right direction, but I believe it’s important to protect the beautiful planet that we do have.”
Here’s a look at a few of the TikTok-ers creations that just might inspire you to look at your trash a little differently.
“Growing up global and with explorer parents, I have watched our most beautiful places on Earth become polluted by plastic pollution.”
The peripatetic Alison Teal, called “the female Indiana Jones” by TIME, does more than give tours of her tropical treehouse and stunt on her surfboard for her fans. After gaining national attention from competing in Discovery Channel’s survivalist reality show Naked and Afraid, her work includes advocating for wildlife and the environment as well as running her quirky online travel series Alison’s Adventures. Her signature pink surfboard and hot pink bikinis were made from thread that started its life as plastic ocean pollution.
“I work to reduce my waste as much as possible and inspire others to do the same, so I love the challenge of repurposing trash into art with a message.”
A self-described “eco-artist,” Rachel Mishael in 2020 took a hard look at the conventional materials she used to create her earthy and muted contemporary paintings. The acrylic, cement, varnishes and other materials weren’t good for her own health, or that of the planet; so Mishael learned how to make her own paints, dyes, inks, and clays entirely from natural materials. Using a plastic bag, plastic bubble wrap, plastic straws, and a cotton canvas, she created abstract art inspired by the city of Copenhagen in a stark black, minimalist style that “juxtaposes the excessive consumerism and waste represented by the materials.”
RACHEL MISHAEL, IVANGELLYS PEREZ, BENJAMIN LE
Left to right: Rachel Mishael made a conceptual abstract work repurposing common household plastics. Ivangellys Perez made a waterproof and leak proof tote made out of 100% plastic food packaging and bubble wrap. Benjamin Le housed a live moss terrarium with a recycled plastic bottle.
“It’s important to me to show people how to reduce their consumption and minimize their footprint on the planet. One simple change to our daily habits can change our future world.”
Travel and lifestyle influencer Ivangellys Perez, a self-described indoor plant enthusiast, can be found tending to her succulent garden when she’s not sharing beauty tips or exploring hidden vacation spots. She created a waterproof, leak-proof, and dirt-proof plastic gardening tote for all her most-used green thumb gear, a nice complement to her collection of upcycled skincare bottles-turned-planters for propagating new cuttings.
“Before you purchase something, think of ways you can repurpose objects at your home. There are almost always alternative methods to do something, especially when it comes to plants!”
With his brand-new degree in environmental science with a focus on sustainable aquaculture, Benjamin “Benji” Le is among a growing (heh) group of “plantfluencers” who want to help beginners develop their green thumbs and create the indoor jungle of their dreams. With mellow, ambient music and Zen-like visuals (pruning moss is surprisingly relaxing), Le cares for his aquaponic garden for followers and fans. He taps low-cost and upcycled resources, like this water bottle-turned-terrarium, to cultivate his collection and educate others about the affordability of green spaces.
Andriana Fragola’s Manō Wahine line of conservation-minded jewelry is made from natural stones and fishing line removed from ensnared sharks.
“The sharks that we see with fishing line still swimming are the lucky ones. Many will die tangled and be dumped back into the ocean. Re-thinking the way that we consume seafood and moving towards reducing what we consume can have a dramatically positive impact on these animals.”
Growing up in Miami, Andriana Fragola says she can’t remember a time when she hasn’t been in the water, nurturing her “very deep connection with the sea.” A certified open water SCUBA diver at age 12, today she is a marine biologist and advocates for the study and protection of sharks. While diving, she collected plastic fishing line from entangled sharks and transformed it “from trash into treasure” by using it to string elegant and beachy beaded jewelry while raising awareness about the effects of commercial fisheries on shark populations.
Nick Uhas, wearing a lab coat made from upcycled jeans, went to create a boomerang from melted down plastic bottlecaps.
“We love the science and ingenuity of creating value from a product that seemingly has no value.”
Nick Uhas has a resume that boggles the mind: He’s not only been a professional stunt rollerblader, he’s also a published organic chemist with a degrees from Yale and Ohio State University. These days, the actor and TV host publishes enthusiastic science content that’s like a cross between Bill Nye and MythBusters. Uhas collected plastic bottles from the beach, melted down the colorful caps using a panini press, and made a colorful, functional boomerang that really flies.