Using Materials

Less Waste

As an art school, we use a lot of materials. By creating a culture of reuse at the GSA we will add a new dimension to students thinking when designing products, building models or creating art.

By considering the whole lifecycle of a material, how it’s joined to other materials, the chemical or physical processes we put these materials through, we can source, use and dispose of materials better. You can visit a resource library to get more aware of the affects of using materials.

We are members of Glasgow Scrap Store, where you can pick up a host of cheap, reused items. Check opening times and turn up with your student card, sign in and get sourcing.

We’re members of the Circular Arts Network where you can donate or source a range of artistic materials.

Glasgow Tool Library is a lending library for tools. Don’t buy tools if you don’t need them long-term, borrow them!

Re-using is better than recycling Often when an item is recycled it is put through an energy intensive process which ‘down-cycles’ it. Bottles become road fill, or clothing becomes rags. Fixing card to foam can make both materials non-recyclable. Glues and resins can be harmful when disposed of, and ply-woods can have limited future use. By thinking about the whole lifecycle we can use less, source re-used materials, use it better and make sure it is still useful when we’ve finished with it. There’s new ideas like the circular economy which we’d like to explore.

Artists’ Paints

Some artists are put off oil paints due to their toxicity and use of solvents, but you can avoid them. Artist Sophie Ploeg paints solvent-free, discussing on her page how to make your studio safer for you and those around you.

Some artists seek out alternatives after suffering reactions to toxic paints. Artist Jesse Waugh sets out how she has adapted her work to be solvent-free. With thanks to GSA H&S Manager Ian Hackford for these suggested sites.


Both natural fibres like cotton and artificial ones like polyester have their own problems. We suggest you look into fabrics you will potentially use – how are they grown and by whom, do they use excessive water or unethical labour practices, are people paid well? When using artificial fabrics think about the source material, is it made out of oil or gas which are not sustainable? How do they degrade? Think of lifecycles from creation to end of life. Research others’ work in textiles like this list and supplied like Joel and Son and quiz companies about their sourcing and what their labels and certifications mean – sometimes they don’t mean much. Question everything, demand better, and suppliers will respond with better sourcing.


Check out where to recycle locally.

Need to know what to put where at GSA? Our waste contractor Tracey’s has some great photos of their recycling and this advice

What to put in General Waste bins
What to put in Mixed Recycling
What to put in Food Waste Recycling

Printer ink cartridges – ask for a cartridge bin from janitors, they can also arrange uplift
Old IT – contact IT Department
_Old printers – contact the brand seller, for example, Epson collect old equipment direct
Batteries – bins at local supermarkets (but try switching to reusable ones)
Glass can be put into the glass bin behind the student association building, or into the general waste skip at the Barnes building.
Bulk glass from events – use a separate bin and ask janitors for an uplift.
Wood waste if it’s reusable pass it on to others, or there’s a skip behind the Reid building – contact Estates for access
Bulk uplifts of other materials – contact janitors

...and the definitive guide to all things disposable

Wrong bin, wrong location? Need a bin? Contact Estates. Contact us if you want advice on re-use and recycling.

Buying Right

Be aware of what you’re buying, using and having to later dispose of. Research websites such as Healthy Materials Lab

What we use as an art school matters. Changing how we source materials can help save students money, save buying things new, and help prevent environmental impacts. Whether it is creative materials, paint for your studio wall, or household items, you can save them, pass them on, and re-use.

The simplest thing is to save unwanted materials, have a space in your department to store them, and to save them for someone else. You can have a corner, a cupboard or a shelf. Speak to your tutor – you’ll need to make sure fire exits are kept clear and health & safety isn’t compromised.

Hold a departmental Rummage, where you lay out unused materials and swap them with others in your work area. A great thing to do before Degree Show.

Look at the lifecycle of the material you are using, and your finished project piece, and consider other materials or ways of combining them. Hemp is one alternative material.

GSA Sustainability hold regular Rummage events, with one scheduled each Freshers Week for new students. Check out our Events page for our next Rummage, or contact us to organise one – we can help with booking space and promotion.

Wall Paint

Many standard paints use some pretty nasty chemicals. The constituents of conventional paints may include formaldehyde, heavy metals and nasties known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs for short. Those VOCs are given out while painting – and for up to five years after your brushes have dried. Consider using more natural paint products, such as Lakeland Paints or Earthborn Let us know of any others you find.


You can drop pens off for recycling.


You can use staff email to advertise or get office furniture. John can also help you get or dispose of any items – or can suggest someone who can.

The Ibrox-based charity Second opportunities take office furniture and sell it on to support their charity work, or try the BHF for any home furniture. Erasmus, the homeless charity takes/offers furniture as does the Salvation Army shop in Partick.

Students (and staff) can use Freegle/Freeshare to claim and get rid of items. The Glasgow Freeshare group has over 20,000 members who are constantly offering and wanting items – it is a great resource for reusing items.

Look for specialist material providers, for example this barrel seller

You can also get involved in Rummage – our occasional swapping event.

Other Sources

Around campus there are multiple recycling bins and have a look out in workshops for cuttings bins and unwanted ends.

Spruce Carpets are a social enterprise charity based in Glasgow. They receive donations of new and used carpet and carpet tiles which are then cleaned and processed by volunteers and ready to sell or donate to families living in poverty.

Ditch the plastic single-use bottle and try an alternative, such as Chilly’s

Ideas or suggestions? Contact us