2023 RCE Youth Art Challenge Awardees

In 2023, the Global RCE Service Centre at the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), in partnership with UNESCO, held the RCE Youth Art Challenge: From Waste to Art.

The Challenge asked participants to create artwork to inspire others around the world to use resources more efficiently, reduce waste, and ultimately shift to sustainable consumption and production. Artworks demonstrated the actions that participants and their local community have been taking, with a focus on SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production).

Submissions were received across three categories (15 years and under, 16-25 years, and 26-35 years), with 212 entries coming from 34 countries. Artworks were expressed through a range of mediums, including craft work, paintings, sculptures, and digital art.

Below are the awardees - congratulations to all!

Click on the '15 years and under', '16-25 years' and '26-35 years' buttons below to see the winners within each category.


Click on each artwork below to see it displayed in full.

1. Outstanding
Transformation Plane

Henry Yong Wei Wong (Malaysia)

I participate in monthly recyclable item collections, like plastic bottles, aluminium cans, cardboard, etc. I am wondering how we can make good use of these recyclable items to create awareness to the public about the importance of the 3Rs. I came up with an idea to create an aircraft from these recyclable items. I have used this aircraft to tell this story to teachers, classmates, and friends about how we can create something interesting and at the same time doing our part to save the world by reusing the waste. I hope this inspires people around me to save the world.

2. Acknowledged
A Tear of Sadness

Zahra Malik (Australia)

My acrylic painting shows an unfortunate tearing brown pelican which has been entangled with a plastic bag around its neck. The mother and baby pelican are surrounded by plastic waste which is a major threat to pelicans and other shorebirds. Not only can birds be strangled by strips of plastic, but also the toxic chemicals in plastics can harm the birds and potentially pass on health problems to their offspring. Birds often mistake plastic items for food, and their stomachs can become so filled with plastic items that they die from starvation.

Binded by Nature

Song Nguyen (Australia)

This piece is a multi-media tapestry made out of recycled fabrics that represents us and our planet having the ability to mend itself. The forces of nature can bind the seams of a broken world. The creation of art using scrap fabrics and one's will power, is a metaphor for the revitalization of our still living world. There is still a bright and beautiful future out there. If I had more time I would have added a lot more greenery and detail into the river and more definition of the clouds. The majority of the time was spent organizing, assembling, cutting and sewing fabrics and painting.

3. Honourable Mention
Changing the Present

Hanyu Yang (Hong Kong)

In a world where mass consumption, pollution, and carbon emissions seem to be produced from every one of our everyday actions and are heavily normalized in our urban lifestyles, it's hard to see past our dark present situation and into what the world should actually look like. Our reliance on burning fossil fuels, single-use plastics, and mass consumerism, should instead be replaced with renewable energy, sustainable materials, an improved recycling system, as well as the preservation of wildlife and habitats. All in all, it illustrates the change that needs to take place today.

Fabrics of Africa

Nhoma Treasure Ezi-Umeonu (Nigeria)

My submission is a vibrant collage uniting a butterfly, a dog, and a princess, intricately crafted from recycled African fabrics. This artwork conveys a message of cross-species unity and environmental consciousness. To protect butterflies, we must preserve their habitats, plant native flora, and minimize pesticide use. For dogs, responsible pet ownership and supporting shelters are vital. Within our communities, fostering cultural appreciation through art can inspire sustainable practices, including recycling and biodiversity conservation.

Reuse, Reduce and RETHINK

Nina Takemoto (Japan)

Every minute more than 100,000 kg of clothing ends up in landfills or is burnt. Most of it is thrown out after less than ten wears! One way to change this is to shop at thrift stores where you can find reasonably priced garments waiting for someone to make good use of them. For my submission, I used materials from a thrift store to make pillow cases and encourage others to reduce/reuse. On one of them, I used old fabric, pieces of plastic, and ribbon to represent a cloth bag and a plastic bag to show another important part of sustainable consumption and production: minimizing plastic use.