One man’s trash is a Didsbury man’s treasure: Meet the designer upcycling your litter

When you dispose of your empty wine bottles at the end of a boozy weekend, you may be unaware that somebody out there is waiting to get their hands on them as part of their day job.

Alex Borg-Constanzi is that person as he has recently launched DoneUps, a Didsbury-based business selling upcycled homeware, lighting and furniture.

Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.

The 27-year-old is constantly on the look-out for obscure items that can be turned into decorative features and has created unusual pieces such as a filament lamp handcrafted from a Disaronno bottle, salt and peppers shakers made from wine bottle necks, and candles incorporated into San Miguel bottles.

“I always have a look in skips whenever I come across one, and I’ve been seen pulling out all sorts: mirrors, tiles, timber, birdbaths, rocking chairs, you’d be surprised with what you might find,” Alex told MM.

“Obviously, you should ask permission before you take anything from a skip and most people look at you like you’re crazy when you do.”

TURNING TRASH TO CASH: Alex hard at work in his upcycling man cave 

He explained that after walking through the Northern Quarter last week after a night out, he came across a roll of what looked to be a high quality gloss material in a bin.

“I pulled out and unrolled it, it was a 6ft poster of Wayne Rooney celebrating a goal with some motivational quote at the top,” he said. 

“Being a huge Red I was obviously over the moon with this and it’s currently in my workshop waiting to be framed, although I’m still trying to decide whether I should sell it or not.”

Alex explained that he had been mostly using glass bottles whilst getting the business set up, creating an array of items, which have received positive feedback.

“This started with asking all my friends and family to keep wine /spirit bottles, and ended up with me going into local watering holes and leaving a box behind the bar,” he said.

“One day a local bar couldn’t have their bottle bins emptied because access was blocked and I ended up filling my car up to the top.”

Alex graduated from the University of Reading with a Philosophy degree, and originally had been working as a Registered Social Landlord in Salford for a number of years prior to opening his business.

While at university, Alex got heavily involved in a number of allotment projects and started growing his own vegetables, which kick-started the idea of becoming more self-sufficient.

He was also previously in charge of the consultation phase of a multi-million pound environmental project.

“Whilst in the job, I noticed how much waste there was, even in some of the most deprived areas of the country,” he said.

“Forgotten about Kids toys strewn out in front gardens and old fence panels and pallets dumped on communal greens.

“It was at this time I started to really think about how we could repurpose a lot of our waste.

“Employing the principles of self-sufficiency can make you less reliant on money and upcycling is a huge part of that.

“With this in mind I began organising my life so that I could spend more time doing what I enjoyed and endeavouring to make a living from it.

Alex explained some of his most bizarre creations, which are currently available to purchase from his store.

“The pipe lamp I have on the shop probably stands out as the most radically repurposed product I have – it’s my favourite just because it was an unusual upcycle,” he said.

“I’m working on some jewelry made of silver plated cutlery and a light fitting made out of bike parts at the moment too, so I guess it’s only going to get stranger!

“Based on the feedback I’ve received, the Salt & Pepper Shakers have gone down well, as has the Disaronno Filament Lamp”.

Alex left his job to dedicate himself to the project on a full-time basis, which he said was a tough decision to make.

“It was definitely a risk to leave my job, it was well paid and secure — as far as that goes these days,” he said.

“In fact, without the support of my parents and my partner I think I may still be there.

“My parents supported me a lot when I explained my ideas and they let me move home so that I could cut my outgoings down. For this, and for so much more, I thank them.”

But despite the gamble, Alex is enthusiastic about his choice, which he sees as fulfilling an interest rather than undertaking a job.

“I think the big benefit of working to realize your own dream is that you’re doing things you’re interested in and that you like,” he said.

“I’m always reading new how-to guides, thinking up new designs, practicing skills, but I’m doing this for fun as well as a job.

“Often I can be found cutting bottles at midnight or making candles all weekend. That’s what’s so good about what I’ve been able to do – I do it because I want to.

“I’m going to be going to a lot more markets in the coming year so I think this will help get the shop seen by people who already have an interest in upcycling and beautiful repurposed home ware.”

He believes keeping the planet green is incredibly important and was one of the main reasons he decided to start upcycling.

He said: “It’s a big part of what this business is about – changing the way in which we approach what we buy and waste.

“I don’t just want to sell some of my products and leave it at that, I want to encourage others to begin their own upcycling adventures and contribute to making the planet happier at the same time.

 “This project is only in its infancy so I’m really excited to carry on the journey and see where it takes me.”

You can visit the online DoneUps shop by clicking here.

For more information on upcycling, reviews and how-to’s click here.

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