books for creative kids
  • Materials for the Arts and Recyclable Art
  • Sarah Heffernan
Materials for the Arts and Recyclable Art

Incorporating recycled art into your home and classroom is a great way to start a conversation about sustainability. Now more than ever, understanding the importance of environmentalism is crucial to children’s futures. While it may be a little confusing and scary to address the fact that 2016 was earth’s hottest year in recorded history, it’s never too early to start talking about recycling.

The average person generates about four pounds of trash a day, which makes about 1.5 tons of waste a year. The EPA estimates that 75% of American waste could be recycled, while only about 30% actually is. Recycling benefits the economy, the environment, as well as supporting sustainable manufacturing.

There are myriad ways to address the issue of excessive waste in the U.S- from your own home to state funded reuse centers. One of the more creative reuse centers is Materials for the Arts, a program operated by the NYC Department for Cultural Affairs with additional support from the NYC Departments of Sanitation and Education.

MFTA is a warehouse in Long Island City stocked with discarded items like rope, electrical wire, electrical sockets, empty cartons, fabric, wood, scrap metal, and most anything else you can think of. The inventory is donated by individuals and corporations who want their waste to go to use. MFTA invites nonprofits with arts programming, government agencies, and public schools to browse the warehouse and get whatever supplies they need for free.

The donation based reuse center allows for waste to become art- the pounds of discarded materials aren’t taking up space in a landfill but rather becoming something beautiful in the hands of children and educators.

Materials for the Arts offers professional development sessions that provide teachers with the tools to best utilize what MFTA has to offer. There is a gallery on the site that showcases recycled, found, and reuse art.

In order to take advantage of the MFTA warehouse and services, head over to their website: and explore their event calendar and blog. There, you can register to become a member and set up an appointment to visit the warehouse and get supplies.

Get inspired by recyclable art and check out these artists working in the field!

Jane Perkins, Frida Kahlo, 2016

Tara Donovan, Styrofoam Cup Sculpture, 2012
Tara Donovan, Untitled (Plastic Cups), 2000


Yuken Teruya, Corner Forest, 2003-2009
  • Sarah Heffernan

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