Search form

The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002


  • Wednesday-Friday10 am-3 pm
  • Saturday 10am – 4 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 4 pm

Closed Monday and Tuesday

Accessibility Information

Visit the carle


Making Art Together

A Fond Farewell to Collecting Plastic Found Materials

Here in the Art Studio, we have always been supporters of re-using materials in a variety of ways. From construction projects to character development, our materials have included plastics such as cups, bread tabs, caps, and contact lens cases. Many of these plastic materials from everyday household items have been carefully washed, sorted, and stored for future uses in art projects. After many years of reusing plastic materials in the Art Studio, we have decided to make changes to our material choices for several environmental, practical, and programming reasons. We'd like to share with you our reasons for changing as well reflect on our sustainability within the Art Studio.   With thousands of guests visiting the Art Studio over the course of a year, we are aware of the amount of trash we can produce. To help cut-down on waste, we think about how we can re-use the materials in a sustainable way. We chop up left-over drawing projects into future collage paper. We save the plastic bases that the gluesticks are shipped on to re-use as stamps.   We've taken apart markers that were dried out to create liquid watercolors from the marker tips and barrels. We deconstruct left-over sculptures to save the parts for future use.   We've even cut off the tops of paint bottles, using them as funnels to capture every last drop of paint.  Recently though, we have been looking closely at how our use of plastic materials within projects is not as sustainable as we'd like. We enjoy the way that plastics are often brightly colored, structurally sound, and are given a new life when incorporated into a sculpture.   But when it is time to retire the artwork after it has been enjoyed, we are often forced to throw away materials that could have previously been recycled (such as cardboard bases) because they have too much tape or glue on them to be redeemed. While we salvage as much as we can, we feel like we could be making better decisions about the materials we choose to use and purchase. We are also acutely aware of the environmental hazard that plastics pose within our waterways, oceans, and landfills. In thinking about the hazards of plastics and potentials with paper products, we have made the decision in the Art Studio to not purchase plastic materials or collect donated plastics. We piloted this idea successfully with an Every Day Art Project in the fall and are confident that plastics do not have to play a large part in our projects.   The night sky mobiles were created using paper found materials as the basis of the project. While we did use string and ribbons as attachment materials, it was much easier to sort the left-over projects and recycle a great deal more than usual.  Using paper products as our base for materials also allows us to provide cutting tools alongside the recycled materials without the fear of creating sharp plastic pieces.  With all this in mind though, we have a large back-log of plastics meticulously sorted and cleaned from years of collection. To move forward with the sustainable goals of the Art Studio, we'll recycle as much as we can and re-use the rest in future projects. So while we are committed to no longer collecting and buying plastics, the phasing out of plastics in our Art Studio space will occur over the course of the coming year.   You'll see a variety of our plastic collections appear in workshops such as our upcoming texture rubbing plate workshop, but our materials will start to shift towards more paper-based products that can be easily recycled. We hope you read this post and join us in our journey to become a more sustainable space for learning!  


We enjoy exploring materials and ideas in the Art Studio, and we’re excited to share our process with you! Please consider the following factors when adapting these posts for your learning environment: 

We facilitate a variety of programs within the Art Studio for a wide range of age groups. Please carefully consider the age appropriateness of each individual activity in your own learning environment.

Our projects are always done with adult supervision and proper safety precautions. Be sure all of your projects are overseen by adults who likewise follow proper safety precautions. The adults overseeing your project must also be responsible for handling or assisting with any potentially harmful equipment or materials. 

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is not responsible for any damages, injuries or liabilities that result from any activities contained within this website, and we expressly disclaim any responsibility or liability therefor. From time to time, we reference materials that we have found to be particularly important in our projects. We do not receive any monetary compensation for recommending materials. 




Stacey z
Wednesday, June 6, 2018 - 12:29 pm
They even take non-crayola markers for recycling!!!
Friday, July 7, 2018 - 9:34 am
Hi Stacey, Thank you for your wonderful comments on the blog and FB page! We had not heard of the Crayola recycling program but are now actively looking into partnering with a local organization to do so. It seems like a great program, it's fantastic that we can recycle non-crayola markers as well. Thanks again for letting us know!
Wednesday, June 6, 2018 - 12:30 pm
Thank you! What a wonderful gift to our environment and the future for our children!
Friday, July 7, 2018 - 10:04 am
Thank you Janet! We are looking forward to continuing to improve our sustainability within the Art Studio.
Lisa Gerstenfeld
Monday, July 7, 2018 - 8:40 am
Very interesting points. For those of us who have an abundance of plastic caps, etc that we've begun using for creating art, how do you suggest we phase out these materials or stop using all together? I worry that no matter how we go about this, they are being thrown away since plastic bottle caps can't be recycled.
Wednesday, July 7, 2018 - 3:43 pm
Hi Lisa, Thank you for your thoughtful comment, this is a great question and something we are puzzling through over the next year. We are new to this, and so we are trying lots of different avenues to phase out our materials. The following are some ways we have found to recycle plastic caps, etc but we welcome any other suggestions as we work through recycling our materials. One way we are thinking of phasing out our plastics is turning the materials into tools rather than using them as supplies. For example, the glue stick caps can be used as stamps or stamp handles when glued to a base rather than using them as construction materials in sculptures. We are also making connections with our local recycling center and researching where things can be recycled. We realized that many of our caps have tiny recycling codes on them so we talked to our recycling center who could accept certain numbers. We are also partnering with a local school to recycle our marker caps using the Crayola Color Cycle program. For the other caps, and packaging, that we couldn't recycle locally, we purchased a TerraCycle All-in-one waste box. We researched into recycling plastics that don't have codes and this seemed to be the best option. It is pricey but something we are considering in our phase-out. I hope this is helpful as you think about your materials, it would be great to hear suggestions other readers might have about how they recycle their plastics!
Lella Gandini
Tuesday, July 7, 2018 - 6:33 pm
Cara Sara Ottomano che meravigli di riciclaggio artistico e creativo avete organizzato!!!! I am very enthousiastic and I am looking forward to be able to visit the studio and explore as well as admire your transformation of recycling in beautiful and useful art! Thank you for incuding me in your mail! Lella Gandini
Wednesday, July 7, 2018 - 4:48 pm
Grazie mille Lella! Thank you for your kind words and guidance with the Reggio-Emilia approach that encourages recycling and re-using materials. We hope you are able to visit soon, we look forward to showing you the new installations around the room!
Tuesday, August 8, 2018 - 8:19 am
Thanks for sharing your thoughtful and considered approach to plastics! We are a UK based Scrapstore having the same conversation and moving in the same direction. It's great to know that we are not alone!
Saturday, August 8, 2018 - 2:33 pm
Thank you for your comment, Thirza! We have been inspired by the support and advice others have given us as we start the process. As we've started to research potential recycling centers, we have been amazed by the local places that either recycle or reuse plastics such as packing materials. Best of luck, and feel free to share any tips for us and other visitors as you move towards reducing your plastics!

Add a New Comment

Leave a reply

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
To Top