Waste is beautiful. Unlikely as that may seem, it’s a fact that was made abundantly clear by a recent exhibition that turned household garbage into a vibrant garden. Called On the Verge of Bloom, the installation saw the Bankstown Arts Centre festooned with flowers - all made from the community’s recycling bins.

The initiative was spearheaded by Urban Theatre Projects, a Western Sydney-based organisation that exists to tell stories from the community. “We’re very much about giving a real voice to people,” explained general manager Julieanne Campbell. “If you scour the landscape and think, “whose voice aren’t I hearing?” they’re the kind of stories we’re telling.”

On the Verge of Bloom grew out of Practice & Participate, a project that saw professional artists take up residency in the front yards of local residents. “We put a call out in the local paper for people to offer up their yard. We got a fantastic response,” laughed Julieanne. “It came out of an interest to work locally, and to think about what it means for an artist to be ‘in residence’. What’s an artist’s perspective, or what conversation might they have if we place them in Bankstown.”

One particular artist specifically wanted a heavily concreted yard. “The artist asked the family to put aside any of their recycling material, mainly plastics, and turned them into these quite extraordinary creations,” explained Julieanne. “They’re inspired by that backyard, but they also took on their own form.”

The beautiful, organic-but-synthetic forms that developed from the collaboration were so impressive that Urban Theatre Projects were intent on continuing to work on the project.

They organised a series of recycling workshops that taught people in the local community how to make their own recycled plant-life. Then, the resulting artworks were strewn all across the Bankstown Arts Centre in an enormous recycled garland.

“People would come in and learn how to make these beautiful botanic plastic gardens,” explained Julieanne. “The community helped turn that into an outdoor garden.”

Julieanne believes that the project helped people to reconsider the value of what they habitually discard. “I think people are curious and interested. It made people think really differently about what they throw out,” she said.

“There’s an awareness of our consumption: something that is waste can become something that is beautiful. You can’t quite believe that they’re bottle tops, and soda-drink bottles. Plastic can be beautiful.”