Creative Ways To Repurpose & Reuse
Written by Julia Schafer
Of all the five R’s; Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot my favourite would have to be Reuse. I mean sure, I recycle like a BOSS but sometimes I am a bit dubious as to how my recycling is treated and where it ends up, once it is taken away from the curb. I would much rather put into play the first three R’s before I throw something in the recycling bin. It's ultimately satisfying for me and plays to my creative nature to find alternative uses for things and give items a second chance at life that would normally go in the trash. So in order to give you a helping hand at thinking outside the box with your rubbish I have made a list of some of the creative ways we as a family make use of regular household waste items. But before we get started… a bit of a disclaimer; I can't take responsibility for the extra cupboard space you will need to find to stockpile your hoard of jars, cans, paper, cardboard and boxes. Sorry, not sorry!
Let’s take a look at some of the typical items that are put into the recycling bin in most households every week and some of the ways in which we can repurpose or reuse them.
When it comes to paper and cardboard recycling, Australia is one of the world leaders at 87% but still, we throw out things that could be put to use around the home.
Cardboard toilet roll cores accumulate quickly in our house, so I keep them out of the trash and throw them into a box for later use. One of my favourites is as a container to start seedlings. Use scissors to cut 3cm slits every centimetre around one edge of the core, then fold to the centre to produce a bottom for the tube. Once filled with potting mix and planted with seeds, mist daily until the seeds sprout and reach 5-10cm in height before planting the whole thing, cardboard and all into your pot or the garden. The tube protects the newly emerging root system and will eventually break down adding nutrients to the soil.
Cut a slit though the core lengthwise and use the tube to secure partial rolls of wrapping paper or even electrical chords.
If you have an adult son as I do, you will no doubt be going through a whole lot of eggs. I just can’t bear to throw out egg cartons so stack them in a cupboard in the garage. Egg cartons can be used to start seeds on your window sill and to hold seed potatoes whilst they chit. Most local egg producers will be grateful for donated egg cartons and also happy to refill them for you at the markets. Cartons that have been damaged can be composted or added to the worm farm.
During COVID our online shopping in Australia and around the world skyrocketed seeing us regularly receiving parcels in the mail covered in all manner of packaging which can be reused. Keep a drawer or box for all the packaging materials such as tissue, bubble wrap, corrugated cardboard and brown paper and make use of them when you have to send a parcel or pack things up at Christmas time.
Cardboard boxes can be flattened out and placed in the compost to provide a brown layer after adding greens such as lawn clippings or plant prunings. Flattened boxes that have been soaked in water can also be used as worm blankets, weed suppressors and even to kill off patches of lawns before making new garden beds.
Tin cans from canned fruits and vegetables can certainly accumulate. Once rinsed they can be made into a variety of useful items. One “out of the box” suggestion is to tie a whole bunch of them together with wire and fill them with soil and peat moss then plant out with succulents to make a green wall planter. Or take the same concept and fill it with bits of bamboo, twigs and sections of the branch with 9mm holes drilled in to provide solitary bees and other pollinators a place to call home in your garden. Attach to the fence, or an old tree stump and watch as the new tenants move in.
Glass jars (I need to say this in a whisper at my house) have a multitude of uses, and if like me you like to make pickles and chutneys no doubt you already have cupboards full of accumulated jars. Reuse jars to fill at the local bulk store with rice, dried legumes, tea, and other bulk pantry items. Approach your local honey producer to refill your jars and whilst we are on refilling, you can also fill them with bulk shampoo, conditioner, peanut butter and cleaning fluids at your bulk food store. One thing I must share is one Christmas I made Nut & Seed Bread Kits, by layering all the dry ingredients in the tall passata jars I had cleaned out, with attached instructions. They looked really colourful and were well received and helped deplete my store of jars!
Since the Containers for Change program began our family hasn’t had to recycle a single beer can or drink bottle as we take them to our local refund point to be exchanged for cash or Woolworths vouchers, but I do have an accumulation of wine bottles that need disposing of on a weekly basis if you have any ideas for those please let me know 🙂
We try to avoid plastics in all shapes and forms but sometimes some sneak into the house often brought by a well-meaning friend or family member contributing to a shared meal. So when they do, I just put on my thinking cap and get creative. Plastic drink bottles can be used to create fruit fly traps in the garden or slow-release waterers for pot plants. Plastic milk containers can be cut down to make scoops for potting mix. Plastic wrap can be put with soft plastics to be recycled at the local grocery store, and takeaway containers, well we just reuse, reuse and reuse again until they deteriorate and then dispose of them sustainably in the recycling bin. I hope this inspires you with some ideas to keep even your recyclables out of the recycling bin. Just know that everything that you do, every change you make to behaviour that benefits the Earth is a big help. Being a perfect zero waste is tough but if all of our focus is on being imperfect environmentalists by being conscious consumers, recycling ninjas and creative re-users we will achieve our goal of leaving a lighter footprint on the Planet.
Creative Ways To Repurpose & Reuse Creative Ways To Repurpose & Reuse Creative Ways To Repurpose & Reuse