The Ultimate Upcycling Challenge

Could you create art out of something destined for the bin? These artists did as part of the Nespresso Project Recycle initiative. Here's what they came up with. 

I love the convenience of my coffee machine - not only am I saving money, I no longer have to schlump to the nearest café in my ugg boots on a Sunday morning when my caffeine levels are dangerously low.

But I’ve never really given thought to those crushed little pods my machine spits out, and at first blush it's hard to imagine they may have a second, third or fourth life as a fridge, or a soft drink can, a table lamp, or a piece of jewelry.

But for sustainable jewelry designer Katrina Freene, the transformation from garbage waste to a show-stopping centerpiece made perfect sense.

“Design is good looking problem solving,” says Katrina.  “Pretty things are not difficult to make, it’s the challenge of the design that I find stimulating.”

The piece, which she was inspired to give “an Australian edge,” was constructed using wire and hot glue gun (“bless the glue gun!”) while the base is a vintage Australian tin canister.

Katrina worked as a mainstream jeweler for 15 years, but became inspired to launch her own line of sustainable jewelry “after a long period of disillusionment” and “realizing how woefully bad for the environment the practices are”.

“[There is] no accountability for its impact or the working standards for millions of people in third world countries,” she explains. “It doesn’t have to be that way”

“There is so much unnecessary waste in the world today. I feel I can make my contribution by making jewellery which is both beautiful and doesn’t compromise the integrity of our environment.”

Ellie Mucke, representing Victoria, is another designer who counts herself among a growing number of craftsmen who are shunning mainstream industry in favour of sustainable practices.

It was when Ellie was studying Fashion at RMIT when she realized her passion for upcycling.

“After that moment there was no turning back.  If I wanted to be involved in the fashion industry I had to pave a new way that was more transparent and respectful than the current system.”

Soon after, she launched MuCKE, her own brand of ethical clothing made from reclaimed garments, transforming old pieces into high street fashion items in 2007.

“The work I create is as much about being inspired by an existing item or fabric as it is about wanting to facilitate discussion about how we use materials during it’s lifetime.“ she says.

As a clothes designer, Ellie primarily works with pre-loved and reclaimed fabric, but had never worked with aluminum before.

“I got spiked from all angles as I attached the individual pieces to fabric underneath! Each time I make something new I learn a lot. ”

Ellie created over 6000 petals by hand, which she individually stitched onto a base cloth of reclaimed shirts. 

“I didn’t count the hours but there were many, many long nights!”

Her hard work paid off. The result is a stunning piece of wearable art that wouldn't look out of place on a celebrity sauntering up a red carpet. 

“Hopefully people will find it beautiful and inspiring.”

Project Upcycle ambassadors in each state are displaying their upcycled creations at Nespresso Boutiques across the country throughout the month of August. For more information, visit

Nespresso have established capsule recycling points in every Nespresso Boutique nationally, with a view to expand the program this year. To start recycling your used capsules, collect a recycling bag or canister from your nearest Nespresso Boutique, by calling the Nespresso Club on 1800 623 033.

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