Architecture students at the University of Sheffield have taken this approach in a class project.
The students have designed a wedge-shaped building made out of waste donated from businesses across Yorkshire and the Humber. Constructed in Sheffield's Tudor Square, the aptly titled Space of Waste building reduces costs and environmental impact by reusing a variety of waste products.
Perspex and birch plywood sheets form the side walls and polythene bales donated by IKEA make up the back. Old foundry sand was put into bags to build the front, while blocks of packing tape from furniture provide a splash of colour and a roof of unwanted carpet tiles gives a watertight finish.
Spokesman for project organiser Why Waste Dan McTiernan spoke to Planning from halfway up a ladder during construction. "It shows that something beautiful can be made from what most of us perceive as rubbish," he enthuses.
Next, Why Waste is looking at creating its own office out of waste. "This project is about matching up those who have waste with those who can put it to good use. It is feasible to do this on a much bigger scale," McTiernan insists.
This year's English Partnerships open meeting took place at the O2 in Greenwich, London, which in a former life was the derided Millennium Dome. The urban regeneration agency's chief executive John Walker is very proud of what has been achieved on the site.
English Partnerships has helped to transform a potential white elephant into a leisure and retail facility centred around a 23,000-capacity music arena. The venue has attracted the Rolling Stones through its doors and will soon host Led Zeppelin's long-awaited reunion gig, Walker pointed out.
One late arrival at the meeting was housing and planning minister Yvette Cooper, who explained that she had been reduced to "circling the area several times before finding the entrance". The O2 is certainly iconic but when government ministers cannot find the front door there may be a little more work yet to be done.
Delegates at the annual British Council for Shopping Centres conference in Gateshead this month were left to ponder a presentation by rock star turned Africa campaigner Sir Bob Geldof.
Admitting that he had not quite decided what he was going to talk about before arriving on the stage, Geldof spoke at length about the problems faced on the continent. He made the odd reference to sustainability, which was after all the theme of the conference.
Then, in an attempt to create some relevance for the audience of retailers, developers and others with an interest in managed environments, he urged them to form a presence in Africa. "It will change in ways that you cannot imagine but you need to be a part of it, for their sustainable future and yours," he insisted.
"I do not believe that we can sustain a major political future without a presence in Africa," he added. But he acknowledged that the "super-duper" style of shopping developments being built in the UK would not be appropriate.