Mariska, with her lamp shades which she makes from recycled coffee pods Image Credit: A.K Kallouche/Xpress


We often tend to throw away things we don’t need and invariably most of them end up in landfills.

However, some environmentally-conscious people have found ingenious ways to put discarded items to good use. From glass, wood and plastic, to paint, old clothes and hundreds of other everyday items, these people have found a way to turn waste into works of art. Here is a lowdown on five such eco warriors in the UAE.

Mariska Nell

A lot of us are coffee addicts, but has anyone given a thought about what to do with a used coffee pod? Take a cue from Mariska Nell.

The 30-year-old South African expat uses discarded coffee pods to make lampshades. “We routinely buy Nespresso coffee which comes in colourful, little aluminium capsules. I found them so attractive I could never bring myself to throw them. Before long I had collected hundreds of pods. As I looked at them one day, I thought why not utilise them to make a lampshade. I used over 900 pods to make my first lampshade. It took me a month but the effort was worthwhile.”

The lamp is designed with four-petal flowers made from Nespresso capsules and stuck together with a special glue.

Nell also makes keyrings, bowls, trays, vases, chairs, chalk-boards and show-pieces from the pods. “At any given time I have 3,000 empty capsules lying in my house. It takes me three hours to clean 50 pods. My friends and family know I am a coffee addict for more reasons than one and so they also bring me used coffee pods. I am happy that in my little way I am encouraging them to recycle too.” The prices of her products start from Dh40 going all the way to Dh6,000 for the lampshade.

Heather Darwish

Another recycling artist is British expat Heather Darwish, 56, who makes, bags, iPad covers, purses from used clothes, old curtain material and leftover furnishing fabrics.

Darwish said the idea of turning old clothes into fanciful artworks struck her when she was cleaning her cupboard.

“It was filled with old clothes I had not worn in a while so I decided to repurpose them. With a little craftiness, I made some pretty eclectic and useful things. The first of them was a bag made from an old pair of jeans.”

In the last three years, Darwish claims to have made over 400 items from recycled clothes most of which weren’t worthy of the donation bin. Her products, are priced between Dh50 and Dh300.

Saeid Mick and Lui

Saeid Mick Momtahan and his wife Lui, who run a company called Craft By Two, specialise in recycling glass and scrap wood to make lamps, sign boards and furniture.

Their ceiling lamps cost around Dh1,000 while their hand-painted signboards fetch anything between Dh300 and Dh1,000.

Mona Al Assad

Similarly, Lebanese expat Mona Al Assad, 54, uses discarded plastic to embellish her paintings. 
“I also recycle the paint I use in my works. When the paint hardens, I crush it into a powder and mix it back into fresh paint to improve consistency,” she said.

Sonia Parekh

Sonia Parekh, who is among the youngest recycling artists in Dubai, runs an initiative called Wasted where she and her friends recycle discarded items.

“We are deeply concerned by the massive amounts of waste produced in our daily lives. Our initiative, Wasted, is our sustainable upcycling experiment to address this problem,” said Sonia. “Recently, a friend was thinking about throwing his old guitar but we upcycled it and now he uses it as a decoration item,” she added.