United Nations figures show that the world produces 2.12 Billion TONS of waste every single year, and the figures are going up! Luckily, some creative recycling projects at home can help save the planet. If you’re interested in creative recycling projects you can do at home, then skip the intro and scroll straight down.
Not only that, but you’ll have a lot of fun doing these creative recycling projects – whether on your own or with your family! Unfortunately, it’s fair to say that, many people have lost sight of the traditional “make and make do” philosophy. Modern life is fast and everything feels disposable.
However, there are considerable benefits to slowing down and thinking of ways to reuse common household items! Creative recycling is good for the environment, saves money, and can form the basis of an enjoyable and engaging hobby. Nowadays more and more people are taking this one step further, and turning their recycling ideas into money-making projects, with some even building businesses around upcycling items that would otherwise have been thrown away!
This article provides a host of ideas on how to make creative things from waste material at home. These ideas are a lot of fun, as well as being good for the environment.
Top 10 Reasons to Recycle
There are a host of good reasons for recycling; While the central reason that it’s great for the environment is, of course, perfectly valid, there are plenty of specific reasons too.
- It can be an extremely enjoyable way to spend some spare time, on your own or with your family.
- While modern landfill sites are now created more safely than they once were, it’s crazy to send materials to landfill unnecessarily.
- Recycling reduces global warming and prevents unnecessary greenhouse gasses reaching the atmosphere.
- Recycling (and up / downcycling) is good for wildlife; The damage done to ocean life by discarded plastic bottles, for example, is well documented.
- Recycling dramatically reduces energy use. For example, producing aluminum cans from “secondary production” uses 92% less energy than doing so from raw materials.
- New raw materials are generated from recycled products, providing a way to make new things without the further use of resources that may be finite.
- Reusing materials for new purposes can save a considerable amount of money. As this article shows, many useful items can be produced by repurposing items that would otherwise have been thrown away.
- When more people become environmentally aware, demand for recycled products increases. This creates a self-perpetuating circle of demand that’s good for the industry and for the planet.
- Water pollution is reduced when recycling increases, as producing goods from recycled materials doesn’t pollute as much as using virgin raw materials.
- With an average family in the western world producing a ton of waste each year, recycling is one activity where just one family (or one person) can make a genuine difference.
Whether you’re recycling by sending materials for industrial reuse or reusing items by trying out some of the recycling projects here, you’re contributing to a global effort to improve the environment for everybody, and for the future.
What Things Can Be Recycled?
If you’re looking to make something useful out of something recycled, you may be surprised by just how many items you can reuse creatively. Even a simple plastic bottle can be turned into a garden sprinkler, a bird feeder or a watering can!
So never assume the only possible destination for an item is the trash. There are creative recycling projects out there for dozens of everyday items, including (but by no way limited to!) the following:
- Glass bottles
- Plastic bottles
- Paper rolls (from kitchen towel and toilet paper)
- Stale bread
- Vegetable peelings
- Plastic Pots
- Dryer sheets
- Coffee grounds
- Egg cartons
- Shoe boxes
- Old and damaged tiles
- Bottle caps
- Mailing tubes
- CDs and DVDs
- Light bulbs
- Christmas trees
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives a good idea of just how many things have plenty of uses beyond their original purpose.
Unfortunately, there are some non-recyclable items that have to go to the landfill if you can’t find a secondary use for them. One way to reduce the environmental impact of these items, in some cases, is to try to refrain from using them wherever possible, instead choosing items that can be recycled.
- Plastic wrapping
- Bubble wrap and packing “donuts”
- Items tainted by food
- Disposable nappies
- Laminated paper
- Garden waste
Upcycling is a way of recycling creatively, turning items that would otherwise be unused into functional and useful things. An example often seen is when people reuse wooden pallets and turn them into anything from outdoor seating areas to staircases.
Upcycling is also possible with far smaller items than pallets! Wine corks, for example, have myriad uses in upcycling projects, with creative people turning them into anything from kitchen backboards to bathmats and plant labels.
Upcycling can produce striking decorative items, or items that are merely practical, such as an upturned plastic bottle used to irrigate a plant pot while someone is away on holiday. Either way, the items get used again rather than being treated as waste.
Upcycling, as described above, is something we hear a lot about these days, with some people even building businesses around upcycled items. Downcycling is just as useful but involves stripping down items to component parts, usually with less of an inherent value than the original item.
Downcycling usually happens on an industrial scale. However, anyone looking how to make creative things from waste material at home will also find examples of downcycling that work as personal projects, such as using old clothes as dusters or linings for pet beds or turning old CDs and DVDs into drinks coasters.
Creative Recycling for Common Household Items
This section looks at some of the common household items everyone tends to have lying around all the time, and discusses some of the ways they can be reused creatively.
For each item there’s one main suggested project, along with a whole host of other possibilities.
Paper rolls from the middle of kitchen paper and toilet paper are something everyone has a constant stream of. While it may seem hard to think of many things to do with these, the abundance of them has caused many people to get really creative, and it turns out there are some really inspiring options!
There are literally hundreds of images on Pinterest showing some of the things people have managed to do with paper rolls.
Whether or not you’re particularly artistic, you should be able to find something to do with them that will keep plenty back from being discarded.
A Toy Garage
You’d struggle to find any parent who wouldn’t welcome an idea that help keep the house tidier, and this toy garage does just that with just a box and a pile of old paper rolls.
All you need to do is use a shoe box or something a bit larger, and fix in a series of used paper rolls in rows. Then, each roll can be used to contain an individual toy car or similar small toy. Not only is this a far tidier way of storing such items, putting the toys in place is a fun activity that even a young toddler may be persuaded to participate in.
More Paper Roll Recycling Ideas
Here are some more ways to recycle your paper rolls:
- Decorations, painted or colored in, for Christmas, Easter or Halloween
- Small gift boxes for jewelry or soaps
- Marble run toys for kids
- Organisers for pens, crayons or makeup
- Starter pots for seedlings
- Pet toys
- Napkin rings
Toothbrushes are supposed to be replaced at least every three months, according to the recommendations of dentists and manufacturers, so they’re something you’re likely to end up with plenty of.
The most usual use for old toothbrushes is in household cleaning; Their bristles mean they are perfect for scrubbing surfaces and their size means they can get into places that are hard to reach. But there are plenty of other uses for old toothbrushes, including some that help with other upcycling projects.
A Toothbrush Bracelet
Making a bracelet out of an old toothbrush may not sound instantly appealing, but you cut off the bristles before doing so! Then, the use of boiling water should be sufficient for the plastic of the toothbrush to bend exactly as you require.
If you use a patterned toothbrush such as those popular with children, you can make an appealing and unique bracelet. And if your child has a character toothbrush featuring a superhero, it can become a superhero bracelet when it needs replacing!
More Toothbrush Recycling Ideas
Here are a few more ways to recycle your old toothbrushes:
- Paint brushes for children, or for flicking and spattering paint onto other creative projects
- Seed pollinator
- Sweetcorn brush – nothing’s better for removing the stringy silks from corn-on-the-cob than a toothbrush, so long as it’s clean
Stale bread may seem good for nothing but the bin, but there are actually plenty of uses for it. Many country’s cuisines include recipes that actually work better if the bread is slightly stale, and even if you can’t use it immediately, you can always freeze it.
Fresh bread doesn’t make good breadcrumbs – the bread glues together and the crumbs get sticky. It’s far better to use stale bread for this, and it’s easy to turn the bread into crumbs – all it takes is a whizz in a food processor. If you don’t have access to a food processor, you can toast the bread in the oven and then bash it into crumbs with a rolling pin.
Breadcrumbs that you can’t use straight away will keep in the freezer for several months in a sealed food bag. The crumbs just need defrosting before use. These crumbs will be far better than shop bought, and cost nothing!
More Stale Bread Recycling Ideas
- Make summer pudding – a fruit pudding that works far better with stale bread
- Oven bake the stale bread to make crispbreads or bread sticks
- Make souffles or French toast – both work fine with stale bread
- Use the bread to feed birds or other animals
While stale bread is fine to use, moldy bread really isn’t. Therefore, be sure to check it’s not deteriorated too much before use.
Plastic Bottle Recycling
Plastic bottles are causing a serious environmental problem at the moment, and there’s lots of pressure to reduce the use of them. Thankfully there are multitudes of things you can do with them to keep them out of your household waste.
Jet Pack Costume
There are dozens of way more practical ways to upcycle plastic bottles, but the jet pack costume is sure to be irresistible to anyone with children and is really easy to make!
A cardboard backboard is all that’s needed to form the center of the costume. Straps are attached to one side, and two downward-facing large plastic bottles attached to the other. With orange tissue paper for flames and a little paint, these are easy to build and customize – and quick enough to make to build several for a party.
More Plastic Bottle Recycling Ideas
Here are some more plastic bottle recycling projects you can try at home:
- Garden sprinklers
- Mailing tubes – send sweets, crayons or papers in the mail
- Bird feeders
- Organisers for pens or makeup
- Scoops and trowels
- Piggy banks
- Garden Pots
Some Additional Creative Recycling Ideas
Here is a selection of ideas of ways to upcycle or downcycle some other items:
- Turn wine bottles into sparkly garden lights by dropping in inexpensive battery powered fairy lights
- Make bags out of scraps of carpet
- Use all kinds of containers and boxes to organise children’s toys
- Turn old buttons into bold earrings
- Use old dryer sheets as air fresheners for cupboards and closets
- Use wine corks as kindling for starting fires and barbecues
- Make puppet toys from old (clean!) socks
- Use egg boxes as propagators for seedlings
- Make oven-baked vegetable chips from peelings
- Use old coffee grounds to repel garden pests
Creative Recycling Projects Recap
This article gives a mere sneak preview of just how much can be done with the household items so many people throw away.
There are thousands more creative ideas out there. As mentioned above, some people go on to build businesses around the incredible things they make from what would otherwise be waste items.
It is great for the environment to do something creative with these items. Also, it potentially saves money when you can build something that you otherwise would have paid for – in turn creating more clutter and more waste.
Many of these projects are so simple that they don’t even require much creative skill.
So, next time you’re about to pitch something into the trash, have a good think about how you could repurpose it. Hopefully, you’ll now come up with plenty of ideas.
If you have any other ideas, let us know in the comments, or even send us photos of the work you have done!