Meet the artist who paints with recycled plastic

South African artist Mbongeni Buthelezi paints with recycled plastic rather than paint materials more traditionally known for making art. And instead of a conventional paintbrush, he uses a heat gun. To create his portrait work, he switches on his heat gun and begins to melt strips of what were formerly plastic bags onto a plastic canvas.

Buthelezi calls his work ‘Plastic Fantastic’ and the technique is incredibly fascinating, as textures and patterns are built up by layering plastic strips and patches on top of each other. Up close, the artworks have a highly abstract and often linear or striped look. Once you step back, the full portrait image begins to emerge.

A recycling enthusiast, Buthelezi spends a considerable amount of time collecting his materials, frequently searching the streets of Johannesburg for discarded plastic bags and other plastic materials. Through his work, Buthelezi hopes to show that art doesn’t have to come from expensive materials and you don’t need a lot of money to achieve great things.

Buthelezi has won numerous awards for his work including the Weekly Mail and Guardian Green Trust Award for his dedication to the environment, with special mention by the judges for social conscience, creativity and hard work.

More about the artist and his material use via BBC Africa.


  1. Maxim Van Wijk says:

    I wonder how much recycling has gone into those brand new rolls of coloured plastic, (probably straight from the factory in China) lined up against the wall behind the artist on the opening picture of this article?