documentary Channel

Meet 6 people who find treasure in the world's scrap

‘It’s a very beautiful way to bring something back after death. Something that was dead comes back to life in another form, like a type of resurrection,’ said architect Tchely Hyung-Chul Shin.

‘It’s a very beautiful way to bring something back after death,' said architect Tchely Hyung-Chul Shin.

Red phone booths, metallic horse sculpture, rusty old car.
One person's scrap is another's art. (Stacey Tenenbaum/John Lopez/Parker Lewis)

It is no secret that the world has a waste problem. All the things that people carelessly discard are clogging up our landfills, oceans and city streets. 

In the documentary Scrap, we meet people around the world who have found creative alternatives to our throwaway culture.

From a collector of old streetcars to an architect who's building a church from a discarded ocean liner, the people featured in Scrap create treasure from trash.   

John Lopez: Making art from discarded metal

John Lopez stands in front of a beautiful metallic horse.
Artist John Lopez creates life-size sculptures from discarded farm equipment. (John Lopez)

John Lopez crafts life-size sculptures with scrap metal out of his studio in Lemmon, S.D. His sculptures are made from discarded objects that he salvages from his farming community. 

"Each one of these pieces has a story of its own," said Lopez. "I'm hoping that my sculptures can honour those people that worked so hard. They worked their fingers to the bone."

The life of each scrap of metal he uses — from old hubcaps to tractor seats — is preserved in these beautiful, nostalgic works of art. 

Tony Inglis: Finding new uses for British phone booths

A field of rusty phone booths.
Tony Inglis restores British red phone booths. (Stacey Tenenbaum)

When British Telecom decided to scrap their iconic red phone booths, Tony Inglis felt they were treating cultural classics like garbage. Along with his wife and brother-in-law, he bought up as many of the the remaining boxes as he could to preserve these iconic pieces of British history. 

At Unicorn Restorations, Inglis and his family have revived more than 2,000 phone booths for use as garden decor, props, libraries and more. 

"You get the feeling that you're doing something, you're bringing something back," said Inglis. "I think sometimes people just want something to just slow down a bit and just not lose everything very quickly. And they like that stability and security of having an object.… They're like anchors with the past."

Saumya Khandelwai: Photographing the beauty in discarded objects

Saumya Khandelwai holds up her camera to take a photo.
Photographer Saumya Khandelwai takes beautiful pictures of e-waste. (Katerine Giguère)

Saumya Khandelwal is a photojournalist based in New Delhi. She takes beautiful pictures of e-waste to raise awareness about this growing global problem. 

"You realize everything has a life," said Khandelwal. "Despite the fact that we might not need it anymore, doesn't mean that we can just get it out of our lives. We might not have it in front of our eyes, but it goes on to affect us in the longer run at a scale that we probably don't realize it does."

She hopes to combat our throwaway culture through art. Her work conveys the magnitude of the problem in order to effect change. 

Tchely Hyung-Chul Shin: Architect finds new life for decommissioned ships

A beautiful art piece created from a ship part.
Shinslab Architecture creates cutting-edge projects using materials like parts of discarded ships. (Shinslab Architecture )

Tchely Hyung-Chul Shin is the owner of Shinslab Architecture, where he works with his wife and fellow architect, Claire Shin. The company designs cutting-edge projects in France and Korea, using unexpected materials — like the hull of a ship — that would otherwise go to waste. 

Shin and his team are currently building a church near Seoul's Incheon International airport from a discarded ocean liner. Their work will preserve the beauty of the ship's aging body in all its massive, rusted glory. 

"Finding the perfect boat was like a treasure hunt. It was an enormous investigation into what becomes of ships when they die," said Shin. "It's a very beautiful way to bring something back after death. Something that was dead comes back to life in another form, like a type of resurrection."

Ed Metka: Streetcar enthusiast restores discarded trolleys

Ed Metka stands in a rusty trolley.
Streetcar enthusiast Ed Metka restores old trolleys. (Stacey Tenenbaum)

Ed Metka has been a streetcar enthusiast for as long as he can remember and was devastated when they began vanishing from city streets. Instead of letting them go to scrap, he started Vintage Electric Streetcar Company to nurse old trolleys back to life. 

Metka has been able to sell his restored vintage cars to cities that are putting these old beauties back into circulation as tourist attractions. 

"It's very satisfying to see these cars running again. It just brings back a lot of good memories," said Metka. "I think we can make more conscious choices in terms of the materials that we're using and what kind of afterlife it has."

Dean Lewis: Turning vintage cars into junkyard art

A rusty old car sits in the forest.
Dean Lewis's museum for old cars in Georgia. (Parker Lewis)

Dean Lewis grew up in a Georgia junkyard that his parents started in the 1930s. Nearly a century later, he's turned it into a museum and living art piece for people to experience and photograph. 

"I'm saving these cars so that kids that [have] never seen these here will come look at them," said Lewis. "It's art, nature and history."

His beautiful collection includes more than 4,400 historic cars spread out over roughly 14 hectares of land. 

Watch Scrap, airing on the documentary Channel Sunday, Nov. 6, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

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