Thinking outside the recycle bin – Al-Tahrir News Network


A group of Egyptian youths decided to repurpose used glass bottles to design high quality decorative handicrafts.

Although recycling may seem like a modern concept introduced with environmental movements throughout the end of the 20th century, it’s actually been around for thousands of years, practised by virtually everyone whether for economic or environmental reasons.

Despite the huge amounts of waste produced in our daily lives, large-scale recycling programmes are still very rare in Egypt. This glaring void served as the primary reason that prompted a team of innovative young Egyptians to start the ThinkUp Arts project that explores novel ways to merge unconventional materials with good taste to create modern decor.

Wooden and glass candle holder and glass jar votive chandelier

“In developing countries, the majority are not aware of the value of used materials. And hence, our project aims at helping our country alleviate the pollution problem. We established our headquarters in Maadi, where we manufacture our products, but we don’t have a showroom yet,” said Ashraf Salem, project manager of ThinkUp Arts’ team alongside Mohamed Al-Bassel, Ahmed Abdel Kader, Haitham Madkour and Ehab Al-Bassel.

A ThinkUp Arts gallery

Volunteer participants are also welcomed, and students can equally join as trainees to learn about sales, marketing, and to enhance their communication and creativity skills, added Salem.

“We use all kinds of bottles. As for the glass-bottles-turned-lamps, turning them into the signature of ThinkUp lamps involves the team choosing the bottles that fit their project, then customising them using special tools. We have also the option of personalised designs on the lamps to reflect a special occasion, a favourite motif or saying,” mentioned Salem.

Bottle candle holders personalised with photos

Customers have been unanimously satisfied with their product of choice, but no absolute bestseller has arisen so far.

Graphic design on glass lamp and candle holder

Prices for the unique pieces range between 100 EGP to 350 EGP, which reflect the nature and ethos of the project: making art from waste materials at affordable prices. “We sell around 10 bottles a week; but we’re trying to reach more by increasing people’s awareness about using recycled products in their homes,” he affirmed. The company even offers home delivery service.

Mason jar chandelier

With the ubiquitous consumption to rubbish status quo that dominates the world today, we are increasingly in need of such innovative ways to create a win-win business that benefits both the customer and the planet.