Something old, something new: Creating jewellery from rubbish


Clutching a plastic bag, Arlene Barclay scans the sand which stretches along the coast of Aberdeen, picking up pieces of rubbish discarded by visitors and washed up on the shoreline.

“It’s disgusting,” the 43-year-old artist says.

“There was one day I spent six hours cleaning it, kids straws and lighters and earplugs.

“It’s like a landfill getting washed ashore.”

Arlene has been cleaning the city’s six kilometre stretch of beach for around four years, black bin bags piling up as she attempts to rid the public space of anything harmful to the environment.

Yet amongst the rubbish are Arlene’s “jewels” as she calls them, plastic bottle tops discarded by their users in all manner of colours.

Taking them back to her home, she carefully begins the process of washing, melting, twisting and forming the malleable plastic into marbled beads.

“They’re almost like glass work when you start making them,” she says.

Each bead which features in her jewellery takes Arlene half an hour to make, the time consuming task is something she taught herself to do.

“You’ve got to melt it down first, you’ve got to mould it into colours that you want, then you have to remelt it and twirl it round into an actual bead shape the you have to melt it again – you have around three to four goes of it before it actually resembles a bead,” she explains.