How to make the best ever footstool or chair from recycled paint cans

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Finished chair – dining height

This is the first of four stools that I made more than 2 months ago.  They are in daily use as dining chairs and general chairs, rather than footstools, as we don’t have a couch on which to sit on so that we can use them as footstools – never mind!  They really get used heavily with three teenagers in the house, plus their cousins and friends, not to mention the adults, and they are very durable and comfortable.  They are made from all recycled materials except for the foam and the sticky tape.  I could have replaced the foam with recycled clean plastic bags, or even newspaper, and next time I will try and do that.  I did this because

1. we really needed some furniture, and

2. I want to challenge perceptions of what is actually “rubbish”.

There are so many things that we discard and the moment they are discarded they are then perceived as “rubbish” or “trash” and no longer of use, however, I have found that many of these things actually have a long lasting second use.  I know that this is not news to readers, but I am not sure whether anyone else has tried this with paint cans.  As it would take maybe hundreds of years for these things to break down fully if in landfill, perhaps I have invented the longest lasting chair EVER!  Who knows! I got the idea from a similar thing I saw with plastic bottles which I have linked here. Perhaps the same thing could be done with used large food cans such as tomato sauce cans here in Fiji, or the large pineapple juice or coffee cans.

Anyway, now for the instructions…

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First, bang the lids onto the cans securely.  Then arrange four cans into a square.

Tape the four cans together securely with packing tape.  Make another set of four cans so that you are using eight in total.

Cut four pieces of used cardboard or coreflute (your could also use plywood) to the size of the cans.  Put one piece on the top and bottom of each set of four cans.  Tape securely with packing tape.  Tape the two sets together securely.

Make a cushion for the top out of a used plastic bag filled with foam chips.  You could also try replacing the foam chips with clean IMGP2366used plastic bags.  Tape the opening of the plastic bag, and poke some small holes into it so that air escapes easily when you sit on it.  Otherwise it might burst.

Cut a piece of thin foam (or used recycled materials) to cover the cushion, making sure that the cushion IMGP2367is centred nicely.  Secure the foam with rafia or string, and gently pull the foam down working around so that you do not have any folds and it is nice and tight.  Once you have that right, then use packing tape over the rafia and secure it in place.

Cut another piece of foam that is going to go around the outside, including overlap under the bottom slightly.  Wrap it around, pull tight, and secure with rafia and tape. No need to stitch anything at this stage.

To cover the chair, I used an old sulu or sarong.

IMGP3460Cut a piece of material to cover the cushion area.  Secure with rafia, pull down and smooth any folds.  Secure with tape.IMGP3461

Cut a piece of material to cover the outside.  Then turn this outside piece inside out over the top so that you are going to have the rafia and string on the inside.  Effectively it is inside out.  Secure with rafia and tape.

Note: Make sure that you have folded the overlap so that when you turn the fabric “right side out” the fold will be hidden underneath your final chair.

Once it is secure, then use a curved needle with very strong thread (I used the thread that is IMGP3468IMGP3472readily available here in Fiji which the shoe makers use, but you could use upholstery thread) to stitch around where the cushion joins the base of the chair.  Stitch actually over the rafia that

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IMGP3488you have tied on the inside out base fabric so that the whole structure is secure.  Once you have stitched all the way around, turn the base fabric back down to cover the base, and fold underneath the base of the chair.

Fold the fabric underneath neatly, as if wrapping a present.  Make sure you get out all the folds around the base of the chair.  Pin securely and stitch the “present wrapping” together underneath the chair.  To make the little chair legs to keep the fabric off the ground, I simply used four recycled plastic drink bottle lids and screwed them into the base with a screwdriver.  I was not sure whether the screws would hold into the pain tins, but they really do.

Stay tuned for the next post – how to make a bean bag out of old umbrellas!

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Dom and Finn playing cards with another version of the chair in the background.

Get our Clean Up published in print – how I did it

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Full page article in the Fiji Sun

I wanted to raise awareness in our small community about the garbage, recycling and environmental issues here in Fiji.  My goal from the start was to get an article in the newspaper.  I didn’t think I’d get a full page with colour photos, but I got lucky.

Here are the steps I took, maybe they will work for you.

First, I looked up the Clean Up the World website just to get some information.  The Clean up the World Weekend this year is in September.  I decided that it was too far away.  As I am originally from Australia, I also knew that Clean Up the World was initiated by Ian Kiernan who started Clean Up Australia so I did some research on that also.   I registered our group for Clean Up the World, and we now have our own member area where we can post information, or people can contact me if they want to be involved.  Member area click here.

In 1989 an ‘average Australian bloke’ had a simple idea to make a difference in his own backyard – Sydney Harbour.

This simple idea has now become the nation’s largest community-based environmental event, Clean Up Australia Day.

It is hard to believe that this campaign began as the inspiration of one man, Australian builder and solo yachtsman, Ian Kiernan.

As an avid sailor, Ian had always dreamed about sailing around the world.

In 1987 his dream came true when he competed in the BOC Challenge solo around-the-world yacht race.

As he sailed through the oceans of the world in his yacht ‘Spirit of Sydney’ he was shocked and disgusted by the pollution and rubbish that he continually encountered in areas such as the Sargasso Sea in the Caribbean.

Having waited years to see the Sargasso’s legendary long golden weeds, Ian’s excited anticipation turned to anger and disappointment when he found them polluted and tangled with rubbish.

The polluted state of the world’s oceans motivated Ian to act.

Once back in Sydney Ian organised a community event with the support of a committee of friends, including Clean Up co founder Kim McKay AO – Clean Up Sydney Harbour.What happened after this is now well documented.

Clean Up Sydney Harbour Day in 1989 received an enormous public response with more than 40,000 Sydneysiders donating their time and energy to clean up the harbour.

Rusted car bodies, plastics of all kinds, glass bottles and cigarette butts were removed by the tonne.

The idea of a clean up day had ignited an enthusiasm and desire among the community to get involved and make a difference to their local environment themselves.

The next year Clean Up Australia Day was born. Ian and his committee believed that if a capital city could be mobilised into action, then so could the whole nation.

Almost 300,000 volunteers turned out on the first Clean Up Australia Day in 1990 and that involvement has steadily increased ever since.

In the past 20 years, Australians have devoted more than 24 million hours towards the environment through Clean Up Australia Day and collected over 200,000 tonnes of rubbish.

The next step for Ian and Kim was to take the concept of Clean Up Australia Day to the rest of the world.

After gaining the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Clean Up the World was launched in 1993. Source http://www.cleanupaustraliaday.org.au/about/about-the-event/history

IMGP5651I looked up the Department of Environment website here in Fiji.  Their calendar had no items, but I heard on the radio that as part of World Biodiversity Day, that the Department was coordinating a clean up.  I contacted IMGP5654them by phone, and they let me know that there was no clean up being organised but that groups were free to celebrate biodiversity in any way they pleased, and that if I needed gloves and garbage bags, they could assist.  The did let me know that there was a clean up being organised from June 5 – June 8, and that they could send me the registration form by email.

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I completed the registration form for our area, and sent it in, nominating that I would have 100 volunteers.  From there, as there was no publicity of note, no TV advertisements, nothing in print that I could find, and nothing on their website, I made a flyer.  I decided that we would clean up on Saturday 8th June in Koronivia, near Nausori (home of Suva airport), Fiji.  If you haven’t already read other posts, I live in a rural area, on a long gravel road, with approximately 18,000 residents, and no garbage collection.

I knew that the amount of garbage we would collect would be massive, as I have been in the habit on a Sunday afternoon of doing an informal pick up, and each time, I collect about 75kg at a time.  Because I knew that there would be a lot of garbage, including a lot of recyclables IMGP5755such as plastic drink bottles and aluminium cans, I put in writing and confirmed on the phone to the Department of Environment that I needed a commitment from them that the garbage would be collected on the same day as the clean up, and not be left overnight.

The commitment was given.

With flyer in hand, my husband and I took a day out from work, and went door knocking.  We went to the local Police Post also and asked them to assist with traffic control. The response from the community was so positive that I knew we would make the 100 volunteers.

The next day, on the bus, I started talking to the lady I was sitting next to, and asked her if she was interested in being involved.  She was very enthusiastic, and we exchanged numbers.  Within an hour she phoned me and told me that she would have about 100 volunteers.

IMGP5627My husband contacted his friends at Fiji National University, and told me that they had organised a group of about 40 students.

I knew then that we might get about 250 people turn up, so decided to increase the number to 300 volunteers .

I contacted Department of Environment with our new numbers, and requested 300 pairs of gloves and 600 bags.  I phoned Coca Cola Amatil in Fiji and asked them about recycling.  They have big bags (1,000 kg rice bags) which you can collect from their facility in Suva to fill.  If you bring the recyclables back to them, they pay $1FJD per kg, or 75c per kg if you call and ask them to collect.  I organized that I would collect eight bags from them.  I also IMGP5628spoke to their marketing manager and asked them for some Tshirts or similar as we would be picking up a lot of packaging from Coca Cola and their owned brands.  They said that they have no Tshirts, but they could provide 10 cartons of Coke Zero for the volunteers.  They take all their own brands of plastics, plus Fiji Water, plus all aluminium cans.  I mentioned to them that I would be contacting the two big newspapers here, and would like to mention their support in the media release.

I phoned BSP which is a local Bank here, that promotes themselves as “Go Green”.  I explained what we were doing and they agreed to support us with some wristbands for the kids, stickers, and hundreds of biodegradable shopping bags.  These bags I gave to Shanila, our local shop keeper.  I also told BSP about the proposed contact with the media.

IMGP5624On Friday afternoon before the clean up, I hired a taxi, and went to pick up the gloves and bags from the Department of Environment, plus some Tshirts (only 100 were available), and some bottled water.  As I had to stop by the Coca Cola factory to get the recycling bags, I had to leave some stuff behind, and the Department staff were to drop it off that night.  I arranged with Liti to meet me and she would collect her supplies.  We ended up with double the bags and gloves, making it 1,200 bags due to a mix up, but we used them all!

I emailed the newspapers alerting them to our activity and the number of volunteers, and some background information about our area.

I knew that to get into the paper, we would have to have a massive turn out, and collect a mountain of rubbish.

On the day of the clean up, we went out very early, with me coordinating at one point, my husband at another, and Liti down her end of the street at the Village.  We also had another great coordinator mid way near the Police Post, called Tema.

We had great support also from the local Police football team and the students from Fiji National University Campus that is on our road.

All the volunteers were so positive that during the morning, so many other people came out onto the streets to help.  They helped also by going into feeder roads and yards and assisting others to clean up whatever was there: tin, metal, glass, coconut husks by the sackful, you name it.

During the clean up, I took lots of photographs.IMGP5755

Once the rubbish had been collected, and the truck was due at the pre-arranged time of 11.30am, I phoned my contact from Environment.  I also wanted to let her know about the volume of garbage, as a small truck would have to do many trips. She told me that ‘the truck driver was a Seventh Day Adventist, and would not be coming today’.

Knowing that the community would feel a huge let down at that news, I decided to press on, reminding her that she had given a commitment.  She asked me to call the Minister’s personal staff.  I did just that, and informed him of our problem.  Being a pragmatic person, he quickly organised a solution: two trucks from the nearest Town Council.

The trucks came, me taking photos all the time, the street was clean. The Department of Environment dropped off hot dogs for everyone, and the atmosphere was one of jubilation and pride.

I compiled an email and sent it in to the newspapers after the event, with photos included.

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Capt Niumataiwalu from the Office of the Minister (far left) organised the Town Council trucks to collect the rubbish

One of the editors from the Fiji Sun picked it up and contacted me for some more information.  I sent him a blurb, and it was published the following Thursday.

The community has really come together through this activity, and rubbish and what we are going to do is a hot topic on the street whenever neighbours meet.  There will be another clean up in the next month, leading up to the Clean Up the World Weekend in September.

In the meantime, we have now got recycling bags at every shop along the road, and soon to have recycling at the FNU campus.  I am in touch with other communities about how to get their recycling started, and have been contacting some of the major makers of plastics asking them what other measures they might take to reduce the amount of recyclables that go into the ocean or are IMGP5662burned or buried here in Fiji.  So far, the response from them is less than adequate, but I will continue working on it.  If you have the time to like the facebook page, it really does help spread the message and help this issue gather momentum.  http://www.facebook.com/CleanUpFijiProtectingParadise