Most recycling projects, by nature, are inexpensive. The benefits of recycling household goods reach beyond money saved and can have larger impacts on the community and even the world. A great rule of thumb for creative folks is to never toss anything that could be repurposed or reused. Many projects can be made from common household recyclables.
Recycled Paper Tags
Use old calendars, cardboard boxes, or recyclable paper bags or even discarded envelopes to make gift tags or name tags for containers and boxes in the house. Produce colorful novel tags by taking advantage of any illustrations in items that are going to be tossed or by substituting ribbons with string.
- Recyclable paper
- Ball of red ribbon
- Paper punch
- Ruler and pencil
- With the ruler and pencil, mark a rectangle that is 3 inches long and 2 inches wide on the paper.
- With sharp scissors, cut along the line.
- For the hexagonal shape, cut the two corners next to the hole evenly.
- Use the first ready tag as a template to avoid repeated measurements. Place the tag on the paper, trace the outline and cut the next tag.
- Once you've completed your tags, use the paper punch to make a hole through the top.
- Cut a short length of red ribbon for each tag and thread it through the holes.
- If you need to clearly label your tags, flip the graphic or colored side of the paper over and cut a small strip, large enough to cover all your text. Glue it onto the tag so you have a blank writing spot.
Try different shapes for labels, like circles, ovals, or triangles, instead of the usual rectangle.
Holiday and Seasonal Organizational Tins
Use old tins of all shapes and sizes to organize pencils or art supplies for children, and letters or even kitchenware around the house. Try different seasonal themes, or simple decorations for everyday use.
Create a Frankenstein tin for a Halloween theme following the instructions below.
- 1 large used can
- Green paint
- Paint brush
- Black permanent marker
- 2 googly eyes
- Black paper
- Glue gun and glue
- Clean the tin and dry it so that paint spreads evenly.
- Paint the tin green and let it dry.
- Stick two googly eyes on the tin using glue. Add details to make Frankenstein's face by drawing details like the mouth and stitches on the forehead with the maker.
- To add hair, cut a strip of black paper. On one side draw and then cut out the hairline. Glue the paper at the top of the can, trimming as necessary to avoid overlap.
Terrariums From Mason Jars
Used glass jars can be turned into terrariums. A closed one can be made when used with a lid. This mimics a natural ecosystem, requiring little aftercare, since water and nutrients are all in circulation within the closed jar. Water with a spray bottle about once a month, or when the system seems dry. If the terrarium has too much water, keep the lid open until some water vapor escapes. Open terrariums require more watering, explains The Indoor Botanist.
Though succulents are the usual choice as they need less water, miniature moss gardens and ferns are also easy to grow within closed jars.
- Used mason jars with lids
- Organic potting medium
- Pebbles or small rocks
- Different small plants to fit in the chosen jar
- Spray bottle of water
- A old fork
- Wash, clean, and dry the jar and lid.
- Carefully add a layer of pebbles or small rocks to provide drainage in the terrarium.
- Next add organic soil, so that the soil layer is at least 3 inches deep. Do not compact the soil; leaving it loose makes planting easier.
- Make depressions in the soil with the back of the fork in the place where the plants will go.
- Hold the plant gently by clumping its leaves and lower it in the jar. Cover the roots by raking soil around with the fork. Then gently compact the soil surface around the roots with the fork.
- Water the terrarium using the spray bottle until the soil is moist. Close the lid.
- Place the terrarium in the room in direct or indirect light depending on the needs of the plants.
Pom-Poms From Wool
Knitting projects often end with leftover balls of wool or yarn. Use this yarn to make customized colorful pom-poms. Used cardboard containers can be repurposed to make pom-pom templates.
- Remains of wool or yarn balls in different colors
- Used cardboard containers
- Scissors, sharp enough to cut cardboard
This method of pom-pom uses a rectangle template. It is easier and faster than other methods, as the wool is wound over the template, and it is possible to make templates for a custom sized pom-pom.
- Cut a cardboard rectangle. The width of the template depends on the size of the pom-poms. So for a large pom-pom of 3 inches diameter, cut a template that is 3 inches wide and 5 inches long. Similarly, for the smaller pom-pom which is 2 inches across, the template is 2 inches wide and 5 inches long.
- Cut out a large rectangle hole in the center of the rectangle, so that the template resembles a photo-frame.
- Lay the template horizontally in front of you. Hold one end of the yarn/wool at the center top of the template. Then wind the wool over the entire rectangle template, top to bottom, but leave some space on the sides open; you shouldn't cover the entire cut out space. Large pom-poms need approximately 120 rounds, and smaller ones 90 rounds, to ensure they are dense.
- When you run out of one strand, tie the end to another leftover strand to continue winding.
- Once you have covered most of the template, cut the end off the ball.
- Now cut a long strand of wool. Thread it through the openings on the sides of the wound wool, in the rectangle hole in the middle of the template. Gather all the wound wool with the strand and tie the pom-pom tightly in the center.
- Place scissors parallel to the top cardboard edge and cut the wound wool along the edge of the template. Do the same on the bottom. This essentially creates four "halves" to either side of the tied off center before the template is removed and the ball is fluffed out.
- Fluff out the pom-pom. Hold it by the long strand that ties it together and trim the pom-pom with scissors to make it compact and get it in shape.
The ready pom-poms can be used to decorate caps, dresses, and bags or made into toys.
Plastic Bottle Micro Drip Irrigation System
Use plastic bottles to fashion a simple homemade drip irrigation system for the garden. In times of drought, this mode of watering plants also saves precious water.
- Used plastic bottles with caps
- A board pin
- A small hammer
Use the board pin and hammer to make small holes around the bottom and lower sides of the bottle. If a single plant has to be watered, make the holes only on one side. If the system is for a flowerbed, then make holes on two or more sides. Keep number of holes to the minimum, so that watering occurs over a longer period. Use the small hammer to pierce holes in the bottle if it is made of stout plastic.
Make four to six holes in the cap of the bottle to keep air moving in the bottle.
Bury the bottle in soil, with the mouth of the bottle above the soil surface so that the bottle can be refilled with water.
Fill the bottle with water and screw the cap lightly. The cap is used to prevent insects, or soil from getting into the bottle. However, if the cap has no holes or is turned too tightly, water flow is disrupted, due to the vacuum that is created once water starts dripping out.
In general, drip is the best irrigation system with a 90% water use efficiency, because water is not lost due to evaporation, or runoff according to the Colorado State University Extension (pg. 1). While traditional drip system adds water at the surface of the soil, this DIY model further reduces water waste by delivering water directly at the root depth.
There are several other ways to reuse and recycle domestic waste.
- Paper bags can be used to design candle holders or lanterns.
- Make baskets out of old magazines.
- Discarded glass jars can become part of a chandelier or used for sprouting grains.
- Repurpose old clothes to make new garments or bags.
- Scrapped tins, castoff furniture, and other items can be used as plant holders.
Municipal solid waste (MSW) is made of materials that can easily be recycled. Anything that ends up in MSW is a resource lost for forever. MSW is composed 13% of plastic, 26% of paper and paperboard, 6% of wood, and 4% of glass, besides other articles, according to a 2016 Environment Protection Agency (EPA) report. Individuals can do their part at home by recycling their waste into new, useable goods.