Dutch "waste artist" Maria Koijck has made it her mission to create works of art that pack an awareness-raising punch, spreading important messages about conservation and the huge impact of litter on our environment. Her latest project? A rhino sculpture made entirely from recycled materials.

Children from the small town of Port Alfred in South Africa recently rallied together to collect discarded beer and soda cans that were flattened with the help of pensioners from the local community, and then affixed to a framework constructed from broken chairs and desks. The result, which is on display at a local school, is a community-created sculpture that Koijck hopes will help educate schoolchildren about the need to care for the environment.

“Working together to collect rubbish and build the rhino has been an amazing experience for everyone,” Koijck said.

Originally from the Netherlands, the artist has dedicated much of her life to creating awareness about the dangers and consequences of pollution, and has worked on similar projects in Brazil, Morocco, the US and Europe.

On this occasion, Koick teamed up with the Dutch Saam Werk Foundation and Stenden, an international hospitality university that has a campus in Port Alfred. According to Saam Werk founder, Hilly Bijl, this is the first time an installation like this has been created in Africa and it has been well received by the local community, despite some initial scepticism.

“When I first saw Maria using a grinder on the scrap metal skeleton of the rhino, I thought she was crazy to come all the way here to do something like this,” said local teacher Rose Daweti. “Now that it is finished, all I can say is, wow, it really is a great piece of art.”