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Reduce, Reuse, Recyle

Minimising Waste from my small Craft Business

Having worked  props for many years, it is pretty shocking how much is wasted. When you are moulding and casting, some waste is unfortunately unavoidable, so I do everything I can to minimise waste, reuse and recycle where possible. 

There are obvious ways in which I do this – for example sourcing fabrics from offcuts and discontinued sample books. But part of my ethic is actively considering ways in which I can prevent waste or reuse materials that would have been otherwise wasted. Here are a few ways in which I do that:

1 – Fabrics

One of the main ways in which I feel my business is unique is that all my creations are unique. This is because I will only have a small piece of the fabric, so I can only make one of a kind. 

I have limited amounts of each fabric because I do not purchase fabric from manufacturers and shops. Whilst I do sometimes purchase fabrics, they are always remnants from upholsterers or fabricators that have stock remaining from a job. And often the fabrics are discontinued, so I couldn’t get more of it even if I wanted to.

Most of my fabric is sourced from designers, curtain makers and upholsterers who save their offcuts or samples for me (this preventing them from ending up in landfill). Or I purchase (and am sometimes given) discontinued sample books.

There is another bonus to this – cost. Purchasing fabrics by the metre from retailers can be very expensive, so if this was how I obtained fabrics, the price point for my finished pieces would be much higher. I often need little more than a small piece, so buying  a metre would be wasteful and expensive.  I would also not have anything like the extensive selection of fabrics available to pull from if I purchased fabrics from retailers.

One lovely thing about collecting waste fabrics from businesses is that I get to donate any fabrics I cannot use to schools. Sometimes a fabric is not a weight or type I can use, maybe I am given more of it than I can use, maybe it’s a pattern that does not suit my beasts.

I deliver anything useable to local schools, who use it in their art or craft classes. It’s a win, win, win!

2 – Plywood

Plywood is an expensive material, even if it’s just a basic pine.

I do not buy sheets of plywood to make my plaques. Instead, I look for offcuts or recycle pieces from old furniture.

My local hardware shop sells their offcuts for a few pounds. Whilst this ply isn’t high quality ply, by the time I have worked some magic with paint and stains, it’s an excellent materials for the price.

I also ask local fabricators of wooden cabinetry,  what they do with their offcuts.  They are often only to happy to see them being used. I am able to get useable pieces of beautiful quality ply woods this way.

Of course, I am limited by the thicknesss I get, but even if I cannot use the ply for the plaque, I can often use it in other ways.

For example, each form has a piece of wood inset into the back of it. This way, I have a solid back to attach the plaque to. I usually use scrap wood for that, but recycling a quality offcut is better than throwing it away, so sometimes I’m able to use much higher quality ply that I need for this.

3 – Packaging

Ah, packaging – such a massively negative part of modern life. It creates so very much waste, so I try to resuse packaging wherever possible. And not just my own either.

Though sometimes I  have to buy boxes that fit (always recyclable cardboard of course) it would be very costly, and in my mind wasteful, to have posh, branded packaging made specifically for my creations. 

Though I would rather not have to use plastic packaging at all, bubble wrap and packaged air pockets are the best way to protect my creatures from harm when they are being transported or shipped. But I always try to avoid buying bubble wrap. I believe that if it’s going to be used, it needs to be resused again and again until it really is unuseable.

I therefore keep all bubble wrap from any packages I receive, and I hunt for businesses needing to get rid of bubble wrap, and recycle it. I hope others do the same – it’s there if you look for it.

I also keep any packaging chips, cardboard boxes and packing paper that I receive and resuse those too.

4 – Mixing Pots and Stirrers

When I am casting forms, horns and antlers (and also mouldings in my other business), I use a mixing pot and stirrer to mix the two parts of resin ready for pouring. I use silicon stirrers for small amounts. For larger amnounts, I use a wooden stirring stick that a can be reused. 


They tend to “grow” with each layer of resin per use, so I can simply sand them back to wood when required. 


I also use reuseable mixing pots where ever possible. Some casting products are very difficult to remove from these pots, but for all resin casting, I can use the pots again and again. I have some little silicon pots for smaller quantities, and they are great! Even better that I found them at a local charity shop!

5 – Wallpaper Samples

Sometimes on my hunt for fabric sample books, I am given wallpaper sample books.

Most of these are given to local schools, but sometimes I will keep some if they are suitable for use with decoupage as this is one way I may decorate plaques.

Lately, I made some of the wallpaper into pretty envelopes.

Every time a member of my menagerie goes to its new home, I include hardware and an information leaflet. My recycled wallpaper envelopes are much prettier than expensive new envelopes, and I try to “match” the envelope with the beast. Hopefully this way, the new owner will be less inclined to throw the info sheet away, too!