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Recycling Becomes a Work of Art
BY PATTI ROTH - Special to The Miami Herald

Tara and her artTara Ackerman is a professional recycler. Empty wine bottles, used paper and old record album jackets are among the tools of her trade. With artistic sensibility and a passion for reducing waste, the Plantation woman transforms toss-aways and second-hand items into pins, bracelets and home décor.

She recycles empty wine bottles into display pieces embellished with paint and paper. As a green enthusiast, Ackerman points out that her eco-friendly materials include nontoxic paints and used paper from old magazines and other similar sources.

Through her business, Green Cycle Designs, Ackerman sells her homemade jewelry and art pieces at South Florida festivals and also on the Internet. She exhibited this year at green festivals in Plantation and Sunrise, and she'll be setting up booths Nov. 14-15 at Art in the Park in Plantation and Dec. 5-6 at the Woodstock Arts & Crafts Festival in Sunrise. Ackerman's interest in preserving the planet blossomed two years ago when a friend gave her a book about easy ways to live a more green lifestyle. She set up recycling bins at her parents' home and carted the items to a public drop-off center. Instead of just adding to the piles of recyclables, Ackerman wanted to do something else. That's when her artistic and environmental passions merged.

Ackerman, 26, experimented and came up with ideas like decorating wine bottles using a decoupage technique, repeating patterns like vibrant polka dots. ``I just sold a bottle that was light blue with cream-colored anchor designs on it. The anchors were actually an old manila folder,'' she said.

To produce identical paper shapes for a design pattern, Ackerman sometimes uses a hand-punch -- no electricity wasted, she points out. She also decorates wine bottles using old books. Ackerman wraps the blank bottles with pages, using both text and pictures. She made some wine bottles with an Alice In Wonderland theme. Each bottle was made from a different chapter. In addition to decorating wine bottles and other types of glassware, Ackerman handcrafts one-of-a-kind notebooks using old record album jackets for the covers. For the inside pages, she uses recycled paper. Ackerman also fashions pins and bracelets using layers of paper showcasing pictures and text from old magazines. And she transforms   old record albums into bowls. Her items generally range from $3 to $40.

Ackerman is a member of the Green League of Broward, a network of environmental groups and activists. The league's director, Michael O'Brien, said her business is a useful and creative way of making resource conservation a way of life.

Ackerman said she'd like her business to inspire others to recycle and think about reusing existing items. ``You can take something old,'' she said, ``and make it into something new and desirable.''

To contact Ackerman, e-mail her at
Check out her work at  or


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