No Trash, Just Treasure: Glenbrook Rotary Markets are a Role Model for Sustainability and Waste Reduction

at glenbook rotary market

Rotary Volunteers Ian Chappel, Drew Fitzpatrick, Carolyn Fitzpatrick and Frank Behl were on hand to organise the children’s Trash to Treasure event.

Story and photos by Gabiann Marin

Music, creativity and sustainability all come together at Glenbrook Rotary Markets every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month, and recently the organisers from the Rotary Club of the Lower Blue Mountains showcased their continuing commitment to waste reduction by hosting a creative Trash to Treasure Competition for local Lower Mountains kids.


Key Points:

  • Markets help grow community connections and support local and sustainable producers.
  • In association with Blue Mountains City Council, the Rotary Club of the Lower Blue Mountains and local market vendors, the community markets are becoming even more sustainable with a focus on reducing, recycling and avoiding waste across the whole market experience.

I can think of no better way to spend a Saturday morning than strolling through the local markets, eating freshly prepared gourmet food and perusing the local jams, plants and sustainably made clothing that is on offer, all to the soundtrack of local musicians performing popular old standards and original new tunes. 

Local MP Susan Templeman at the Glenbrook Rotary markets.

Local MP Susan Templeman is proud to support emerging musical artists like Jerrah and Friends who perform at the Glenbrook Rotary markets.

Markets are a great alternative to big store shopping, offering locally sourced goods, organic produce and handmade items, all of which inject money back into the local economy, as well as supporting more sustainable commerce. But the Glenbrook Rotary Markets go even further in their efforts to support the community: not only offering a great place for local artisans, farmers and musicians to showcase their wares, but using the market itself to help fund and support local sustainability initiatives.

Recently, the Rotary Club Environmental Working Group also hosted a Trash to Treasure Competition at the Markets, encouraging children of all ages to think about recycling, reusing and repurposing as part of a fully circular economy.

robot and owl made out of trash

School children worked for weeks to create clever items like this robot and owl, made out of discarded materials. They were entered into the Trash to Treasure Creative Prize. 

The Rotary organisers have worked tirelessly to encourage sustainable waste management in the markets, working with market vendors and community to encourage sustainable or zero waste solutions as well as providing opportunities for waste and sustainability education to feature prominently throughout the market environment.

By inviting Blue Mountains City Council Waste and Sustainability officers to host an information stall, the Rotary Club organisers were able to showcase all the innovative and sustainable waste reduction solutions available across the markets and in the community more generally.

The Trash to Treasure Creative Competition encouraged local children to complete an artwork and bring it for judging for a creative art prize, or they could make something on the day by taking advantage of a reuse and recycle station set up and hosted by Rotary Club members.

The station, strewn with all manner of ‘trash’, like paddle pop sticks, plastic straws, empty soft drink bottles and used cellophane, soon became a hive of activity as children of all ages painted, glued, drew and constructed art pieces. They then added them to the gallery of artworks which had already been completed by children over the previous weeks.

Creation Station at Rotary Markets

Volunteers Sue Parnell and Chris Behl oversee the Creation Station at Rotary Markets.

Thirteen-year-old Elise sat at the table, diligently constructing her creative birdhouse out of paddle pop sticks, and old ribbons.

Unsurprisingly, her work was deemed the winner of the best artwork in the teen category – judged by Rotary members Carolyn Fitzpatrick and Ian Chappell and Market Organiser Drew Fitzpatrick.  A representative of the Council’s waste management team also helped award the prizes.

Elise was delighted to be presented with the first prize: a large, fully kitted out worm farm which would take pride of place in her garden, right alongside the prize-winning birdhouse!

Elise and her mum show off Elise’s award-winning birdhouse made on the day from recycled paddle pop sticks.

“I’m so proud of her,” said Elise’s mum. ‘She worked really hard on this.’

Elise smiles, a little embarrassed at all the attention, but also clearly pleased her work has been so well received.

“I think it’s really important not to just throw away things,” she says. “We have to make sure we are careful about what we use and what we do with it.”

Her words are greeted with applause from the market goers who gathered around to watch the award ceremony and admire the other award-winning creations, including a bunny made of old soft drink bottles, a castle constructed of cardboard boxes and plastic straws, and a robot built from plastic cups.

 some of the art works entered in the Trash to Treasure Creative Prize.

A table of treasure: some of the art works entered in the Trash to Treasure Creative Prize.

Native plant growers and local florists show off the beautiful flora of our bushland.  A few steps on and a stall filled with shiny silver jewellery glints in the afternoon sun – it takes a moment to realise that all the beautiful bracelets, rings and pendants are repurposed knives, forks and spoons.

repurposed cutlery creates stunning sustainable jewellery

Cleverly repurposed cutlery creates stunning sustainable jewellery at Glenbrook Rotary Markets.

The sounds of a guitar draw you towards the edges of the marketplace where another example of innovative recycling was also drawing a bit of a crowd.

Ken Watt’s innovative idea of repurposing old biscuit tins and scraps of recycled wood into creative fully working guitars has drawn the attention of a number of market shoppers, many of whom eagerly pick up and strum one of Ken’s guitars, keen to see if the instrument really does work.

After plugging into the amp Ken has brought along for this purpose, the guitar hums into life and onlookers clamber to have a go at playing these crafty instruments.

Ken Watts makes innovative guitars from recycled wood, old tins and metal signs.

Ken Watts makes innovative guitars from recycled wood, old tins and metal signs.

The idea for the recycled tin guitars was inspired by a trip to a different market where Ken saw a street musician playing an instrument assembled out of found objects. Newly retired, Ken decided to adapt the idea and create fully working guitars out of old biscuit, lunchbox and coffee tins as well as wood and metal signs.

“It took a bit of trial and error,” Ken reveals. “But eventually I found a way we could make them fully compatible with any amp system. All of them can be plugged in, except the kids guitars here”,  he points out two smaller versions, made out of a child’s Christmas chocolate tin and a Buzz Lightyear biscuit tin. “Those are acoustic guitars.”

He picks up a guitar made from an old biscuit tin with a 1960’s car illustration on it and strums it fondly, the music floating across the other stalls, hovering over the heads of market goers, weaving between the bouquets of native flowers wrapped in recycled paper, and tinkling across jam jars, adding another layer to this wonderful weekend experience for the locals of the Lower Blue Mountains.  

Floral Team Building and Events at glenbrook rotary markets

Floral Team Building and Events are just one of the many innovative sustainable businesses you can find at Glenbrook Rotary markets.


Take Action:

  • Reduce your waste and support local farmers and artisans by buying produce at local markets like the Glenbrook Rotary Markets.
  • While there, consider handmade, second hand and sustainable gifts as an alternative to purchasing them from larger retail stores. Glenbrook Rotary Markets are open on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of each month at 1A Ross Street, Glenbrook. 
  • The Rotary Club of the Lower Blue Mountains supports all sorts of great causes and sustainable practices. You can support them by making a donation at the Glenbrook Markets or find out more about the Club here >

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This story has been produced as part of a Bioregional Collaboration for Planetary Health and is supported by the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (DRRF). The DRRF is jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments.


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About Gabiann Marin

Gabiann has worked as in-house writer/editor for Amnesty International, Greenpeace and Médecins Sans Frontières across Australia, Africa and the Asia Pacific. She is an award winning novelist and children’s book author, having won or been shortlisted for several Australian and international writing prizes. She was one of the key designers and the writer of the award-winning multimedia interactive narrative, Kids Together Now, which focuses on helping children deal with issues around bullying and racism.

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