Beads of Destiny: Recycling the Dream

Do beads have a destiny?  I think so.  Whether they are round or flat, thick or thin, long or short, huge or tiny; whether they are clay or wood or plastic or gemstone; whether they have a wide hole or a tiny hole; whether they are threaded onto wire or ribbon or chain or cord; they are all made with a purpose.  A purpose to be threaded or sewn with others of their kind and to live out their days in happy communities, loved by their owners and dutifully cared for.  Just take a look at these happy wooden and bone beads from my Etsy shop.  Here you can see them living out their beady destiny, just waiting for a new owner to take them home and love them :):

Ethnic Recycled Wood and Bone Bead Necklace – click picture for more info

But what happens when things go wrong?  What happens when those happy beads are neglected, unloved, or worse…I shall whisper this in case they hear me so come a little closer to your screen and cover the ears of any innocent beads that might be nearby…what if the owner of that little family decides upon a course of total abandonment and actually gets rid of them altogether?  And what if, instead of finding them a new home to move to where they will be loved and allowed to continue living out their destiny as a beautiful necklace or a delicious pair of earrings, they are simply thrown in the bin?  Well, unfortunately I can answer that question because this is what happens:

Landfill site in Mucking, Essex

Abandoned, though otherwise entirely happy, healthy beads join the other 14.6 million tonnes of waste that the UK sends to landfill every year (  If I were a bead looking at that picture it would fill me with horror and dread.  I would shake at the thought of  being condemmed to spend the rest of my days in amongst the stench of decomposing garbage, dreaming of the glory days and trying to avoid being nibbled on by bovver-booted seagulls.  Should this really be the graveyard of what were once objects of beauty?

For those crafters amongst you, think about those lovely, gorgeous beads that you work with, that you carefully selected for their colour, their texture, their shape.  Wouldn’t it sadden you to know they had been tossed aside for the sake of a broken clasp, a tarnished wire, a snapped thread?  But this is happening every day, not just to beady families but to so many other objects that are cast aside for something new.

Despite big improvements in the past few years, the UK still has one of the worst records in Europe for recycling and reusing its waste.  This lagging behind is mainly because of a consumer attitude that persists, even in the face of everything we know about the changes that are happening to our planet, in encouraging us to always want something brand new, to always throw something out at the first sign of wear and tear instead of reclaiming it, revamping it or putting it to a new use.  So many of us still don’t think about the true costs of where things come from and the true costs of what happens when we throw them away.

Landfill isn’t just an unpleasant place of stinking, decomposing rubbish.  It produces huge amounts of methane gas which is at least 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.  Controlling methane emissions from landfill is an important part of slowing down climate change and protecting our environment.  Landfill can also pollute our air and our watercourses with the toxic substances that are produced as a result of decomposition.   Other items may not be able to decompose at all and will sit in the earth for half a millenia or more.  What  a legacy for archaeologists to discover!  I wonder what conclusions they will draw about our society from these finds?!

A ‘Garbology’ dig from Suffolk Recycling – click the picture for more information

Many of us are trying really hard to change the way we live, to recycle everything we can and to make more ethical, sustainable choices when we buy.  As artists and crafters there is a little something extra we can do to help.  We can make a space in our stash for all those abandoned beads and other materials that are still raring to go and perfectly capable of making a valuable contribution to society.  We can have our very own crafty rescue centre dedicated to rehoming and reusing!  Here’s my latest residents, kindly donated by my sister who was having a clear out:

And the great thing about reusing is that you can find those one-off little things that you’ll never find again.  You’ll have unique, never to be repeated pieces of jewellery and crafts that will be forever grateful to you for taking them in when they had nowhere to go, friends for life :).

See below for some great examples of recycled, upcycled and reused work from the Folksy community:

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‘Stave’ L.P. Bangle by ShoeGazer Jewellery

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Recycled yellow and orange buttons bracelet by Rag Thug Crafts

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Trophy coat pegs by Emily Found a Thing

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‘Yellow polka’ Recycled Skateboard Necklace by O’Blue Thrashion

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Recycled Jumper Brooch Heart Bead by Tamsyn G

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Recycled denim patchwork lap quilt by Love ToCraft

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recycled inner tube lighter holder by Tinkan Designs

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Hobgoblin beer mat recycled notebook by Mint To Be Stationery

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Gothic Upcycled Black Witch Mini Hat by Gaia Noir

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Recycled Sweet Wrapper & Feather Fascinator Comb by Tusen Takk


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6 thoughts on “Beads of Destiny: Recycling the Dream

  1. Great blog today. You’ll be happy to know I’m a responsible bead owner and all my broken jewellery gets stashed ready to be reused. Stumbled you.

  2. Thanks! Glad to hear you have a happy stash lol – I think there is something so satisfying about giving things a new lease of life :). And thanks for the Stumble, it’s much appreciated x

  3. *gasp* Dinosaur on a coat peg…! :O That’s such an awesome and creative re-use!

    Thankyou for featuring me and really good job on researching this blog post. As a community of crafters we all have a general vague feeling that waste is bad, but even I sometimes have to think hard when explaining the statistics and exact facts why (and I pretty much upcycle things for a living)!

    My partner’s actually running a crafting workshop at the moment called ‘Junk Jewellery’ (!/event.php?eid=215917678441372 ). Partially because he works as a janitor at a club night (and finds lying about 15 or so discarded earrings/charms/miscellaneous sparkly beads every night!), and partially because of out local flea market dealing in broken jewellery bits, we find ourselves knee-deep in beautiful yet discarded sparkly bits! It’s going to be great seeing these rescued, polished up, and incorporated into something fabulous again 🙂

  4. Lol, I know, aren’t those pegs just amazing :)!!

    You’re welcome for the featuring, your work is beautiful and original and deserves to be seen :). I know what you mean about not knowing quite why we reuse and recycle. I have had an awareness of many of these issues for a while, but finding the actual figures still horrifies me. Looking into this kind of thing just makes me more determined to take more responsibility for what I make and the way I work.

    Your partner’s workshop sounds great! Really good to know someone is collecting all those odds and sods so that they can be put back into circulation in new ways :)!!

  5. Here here, i’m with you on this one. I think that crafters and artists should think carefully about the materials that they use for their work. I like to think that I run a sustainable outfit and would like to also run workshops about it in the future. Wouldn’t it be great if like minded people could get together for a collaborative exhibition? Great article. Keep it green everyone!

    • Now that’s a great idea – it would make for a fascinating exhibition! And the workshops too – my feeling is that a lot of people are totally on board with these ideas and would like to find more ways to reuse things, just need some ideas to get them going. I think a lot of it is learning to look at things differently and to see the potential in them, to think about how you can break something down into its components and reuse part of it in one thing, part of it in another. There used to be much more of a culture of reuse and recycle in the UK, our grandmothers would probably never have dreamed of throwing out half the things that end up in our dustbins!!

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