County Wicklow School wins top marks for “Covid Classroom” at this year’s National Upcycle Challenge - mywaste My Waste

County Wicklow School wins top marks for “Covid Classroom” at this year’s National Upcycle Challenge

8 Dec 2020

  • The Upcycle Challenge was set by ie and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • There were Nine Winners in total across Nine different categories.

Students at a County Wicklow secondary school who built a “Covid Classroom” from old sails and fencing and a Men’s Shed from Donegal who relived their youth by creating “Thomas the Tank Engine” from an old oil tank were among the nine worthy winners of this year’s national Upcycle Challenge 2020. 

The Upcycle Challenge was set by and the Environmental  Protection Agency (EPA).

It invited participants to use their imaginations to create something new and useful out of old unwanted and discarded items or material.

As many as 259 entries were received from individuals, community organisations, Men’s Sheds, and schools across the country. A total of eight  category winners were decided by a judging panel, who also chose three finalists for a People’s Choice Award.

During November, the public voted for the three finalists on social media platforms. The Irish public decided the winner to be Ann Mc Kenna from County Monaghan who upcycles the clothes of people who died to make memorial bears for their loved ones.

The full list of winners are as follows:

People’s Choice Award

Ann Mc Kenna, Co. Monaghan - upcycled the clothes, such as shirts, trousers, jackets, and jumpers, of people who died to make a memorial bear for loved ones.

Connacht – Ulster Waste Region

Blue Watch, Galway Fire Brigade , Co. Galway –  saved three "retired" ladders from the scrap yard and used them to make an outdoor seating area in the station yard.

Eastern Midlands Waste Region 

Mark Eagers, Dublin- used an old LPG cylinder, some old scrap copper cylinder, old steel, some mahogany from a skip, old reclaimed gun barrel pipes & old fittings from an old house to make “Big Bertha BBQ”.

Southern Waste Region

KC Men's Shed (Keel/Castlemaine), Kerry - made a unique scarecrow, or crow that scares, from an old bicycle wheel, part of a bicycle frame, unwanted free music CDs, scrap metal sheet, aluminium flashing cover from a Velux roof window, and part of an old cooking pot.

Men’s Shed Category

Rosses Men’s Shed, Co. Donegal - Brought the railway back to Donegal in the form of  “Thomas the Tank Engine” made from an old oil tank and some pallets. The result is the ideal playhouse/train for children and the young at heart.

The Professional’s Category

An Mheitheal Rothar Pop up Shop, Galway - During the beginning of the pandemic ReCycle Your Cycle needed to find a new location when the people of Galway needed recycled bicycles and bike repair skills more than ever. The group arranged to rent a pop up shop in an old credit union. Nearly five months on and it's a huge success with a thriving social enterprise where there was just an empty shop for years.

Community Groups Category

Conway Court, Dublin -  came together as a community during lockdown to bring some colour and brightness into their living complex. They did this by building flower boxes, small raised gardens, covers for unsightly bins etc… from discarded pallets and an old dog kennel.

EPA Special Prize Winner

Adrian Padden, Co. Mayo - undertook to grow fresh produce in a very small outdoor area. He achieved this by making a unique piece using plastic bottles and a pallet that allows plants and shrubs to grow in a vertical planting area.

School Award

Temple Carrig School, Co Wicklow –  Built the “Covid Classroom”. The nature of restrictions imposed by Covid-19 led the students to look at how best to utilise the school’s outdoor spaces. Five years ago they created a natural amphitheatre for performances. This year they decided they needed a way to cover this whilst maintaining a minimal carbon footprint. They achieved this by up cycling old farm fencing, nautical rigging and sails to create a Covid-19 friendly classroom.

Congratulating the winners Declan Breen Waste Prevention Officer with the Eastern Midlands Regional Waste Management Planning Office said this year’s applications were of a very high standard making the judging process very difficult.

“The Upcycle Challenge is a collaboration between the EPA and the regional waste management offices under the umbrella of This year, as in other years, we challenged ourselves to get the nation thinking about reuse. The challenge helped create awareness of how we can reuse everyday objects by upcycling and repurposing them, as well as allowing people and groups to share their creativity with a wider audience. This year we also became acutely aware how important these projects were to a lot of people during the weeks and months of the pandemic.

“Many entrants shared with us how working on these projects helped to sustain them during the lockdown and proved to be a useful exercise in managing mental health. We are therefore delighted with the positive impact these projects have on our environment and the well-being of the community at large.”

Due to public health restrictions, this year’s Upcycle Challenge Award ceremony will take the form of a video shared on social media channels showing the skills, creativity and ingenuity of all nine winners and their projects.

Each winner will also receive an equal share of the €6,750 prize fund.