The average person produces over 4 pounds of trash each day and around 1.5 tons of waste each year. According to an estimate by the EPA, 75% of that waste is recyclable but we only recycle about 30% of it.
That’s just sad and scary, to think that we’ve got all this waste that can be recycled and it’s just being ignored.
Over the past 10 or 12 years, we’ve been seeing a growing shift towards recycling and environmental conservation.
Reusing/repurposing certain things around your house is a good way to reduce the amount of waste in your home and the environment. With that said, here are 57 things to reuse to reduce waste.
1. Plastic Bags
You can reuse plastic shopping bags as trash bin liners (trash bags), and to dispose of used kitty litter. You can also use them to wrap items for shipping.
Some places will have specific programs for recycling plastic bags, it’s good to know if your stores have them.
2. Milk Cartons
Milk cartons can be used as planters for…well…plants – what else? You can also use them to make ice blocks. Fill the carton with water, freeze it, and voila! Ice!
3. Plastic Bottles
Plastic water/cold drink bottles can be reused in a few different ways. Make planters for your garden, turn them into a piggy bank for your kids, you can use them for arts and crafts projects, and make a funnel for your car – if you need one – for pouring fuel from your fuel can into your car.
4. Empty Ice Cream Containers
Here’s an obvious one, ice cream containers. These can be used for storage, in arts and crafts stuff with kids, you can collect food scraps and coffee grounds for your compost heap and/or worm farm.
5. Empty Roll-On Deodorant Bottles
This is a bit of a weird one, but it’s too cool not to put it on the list. Take an empty roll-on deodorant bottle and clean it out thoroughly. Fill it with paint, and you’ve got a roll-on paint dispenser/bottle.
6. Old Clothes/Jeans
If you’re like me, you’ve probably thrown out some clothes over the years. You can reuse those old, ratty jeans that don’t fit you properly in a few ways.
If they’re in good shape, donate them to charities. If not, use them for patchwork sewing projects and/or as cleaning rags.
7. Clear Plastic Lids
If you have a bottle of shaving foam on your bathroom sink, it probably has a metal bottle. That metal bottle can leave some ugly rust marks on the basin. How do you avoid that? Stick a clear plastic lid under the bottle, of course!
8. Food Scraps
Pretty obvious, right? We tend to give our dogs occasional food scraps from time to time as a treat, but you can also use certain food scraps to make compost – saving yourself a sizeable chunk of money in the process – and garden fertilizer.
Another use for food scraps would be a worm farm. If you have a worm farm, you can save food scraps (fruit, tea bags, coffee grounds, etc.) to feed to your worms.
We have a reputation as ‘Hotel Seebregts’ – all the kooky animals in our neighborhood end up here at some point.
We’ve got four dogs, four cats, and two African Grey parrots. If you have or have had parrots at anytime, you know that you use newspaper to line their cage floors to make it comfortable to walk on and easy to clean.
Another use for newspapers, is as gift wrapping. I did this for a few years working at flea markets – wrapping fragile ornaments in newspaper to prevent breakage.
10. Junk Mail
Depending on the type of junk mail, you can use it for wrapping things up (like with newspapers). If it comes in an envelope, reuse the envelope to send your own mail. You can also shred junk mail into mulch for your garden.
11. Old Hair Accessories
Use hair clips to hold your curtains open and hair ties to secure branches and/or stems in the garden. If you have a trellis and you need to keep a plant upright, use an old hair tie to keep it in place.
12. Old, Unused Keys
We’ve all got drawers in our houses full of random odds and ends – what Michael McIntyre calls a ‘man drawer’ – right? It’s a draw that’s full of junk that we think we’ll need but that we never actually use.
Among all that junk, we’ve got unused keys to things we probably don’t own anymore. Well, you can take those old keys and make some interesting jewelry and/or arts and crafts projects.
13. Aluminum Foil
Use aluminum foil to reflect sunlight to get more light on your plants in shady spots. Create water-tight packages for seeds. You can also seal leftovers for freezing and line pans for baking.
14. Unneeded CDs, DVDs, or Videotapes
Use unneeded/unwanted CDs and DVDs to keep the pests out of your garden. Simply hang them from tree branches and the sunlight and wind will do the rest; combining movement with the reflection of the sun off the shiny side of the disk.
Tape from VHS tapes can be used to secure stems and branches in your garden.
15. Old Cell Phones
We live in an ever-changing world of technology. Every year new phones, laptops, and tablets are released which render the previous ones obsolete.
Unless you keep the phone as a backup, it ends up at the local landfill – adding to the environmental pollution.
You can, assuming you don’t want to keep the old phone as a spare, gift it to someone who needs a phone (just make sure that you’ve cleared any and all personal stuff off of it first).
It’s probably also a good idea to get in touch with the manufacturer and find out if they have a re-purchase program – where they buy the old phone back from you when you get a new one.
16. Old Wine Corks
Old corks are very useful and allow for some creative crafting ideas. Everything from toothpick holders to table ornaments to magnets, the possibilities are there to be explored.
If you’re not the crafty type, you can sell them to crafters who use them in their projects.
17. Wet Wipe Containers
If you’ve got a few empty wet wipe containers lying around, why not turn them into DIY dispensers for string, ribbons, something else arty?
18. Old Jars
There are numerous recycling programs that use glass jars, I know my aunt uses them in school projects with her students.
If you want to dispose of bacon grease or old cooking oil without making a huge mess, put it into an old jar and toss the jar in the trash.
You can also use old jars for storage purposes to keep all your little odds and ends in one place (tools, sweets).
19. Jar and Bottle Lids
We’ve all had furniture which leaves unsightly divots in our carpets, right? Well, sticking a bottle lid (assuming it’s big enough) under the feet of the furniture can help avoid that problem.
20. Tree Branches
Tree branches are great for creative art projects (i.e. DIY furniture, carpentry, etc.) and aren’t difficult to find.
Make a little DIY Christmas tree by sticking a few branches in a vase and avoid the hassle of unpacking/repacking a Christmas tree every year.
21. Printer Cartridges
This is great considering how fast printer models come into and go out of production. Many manufacturers have a recycling program where you can send old cartridges in for recycling because obviously, not all printers will take the same cartridges and if you can’t use them, why keep them lying around the house/office?
Books are a huge thing in our house, my whole family is full of bookworms. If you have many hard copies lying around and you want to get rid of them; you can donate them to hospice/charities, and/or sell them at flea markets – which we did a few times.
23. Paint Water
If you do a lot of painting, or you have kids who like to paint, take the water and chuck it on your plants.
Now, I should point out that this would likely depend on the paints you use – it shouldn’t be an issue with watercolors but acrylic/oil paints might pose a problem as there’s all kinds of stuff in them which could damage your plants.
24. Old Tyres
Old tyres have a wealth of creative uses. You can make tyre swings, obstacles for obstacle courses, and even use them for weights training (if they’re big enough).
I’ve even seen guys make martial arts equipment out of these which, if you know anything about martial arts classes, can save you a pretty penny or two. Check this out:
There’s also a man in Lagos, who uses old tyres in art projects; how cool is that?
25. Empty Lip Balm Containers
The weather here in South Africa is starting to cool down, and the winter weather brings a host of its own problems – including chapped lips (ouch).
This makes lip balm a common purchase but what about when those containers are empty?
Well, you can put a bit of moisturizer, or whatever cosmetics you want/need into them and make them useful again!
26. Old Photos, Paper Scraps
Old photos and paper scraps can be used to make creative birthday cards.
27. Old Paper
You can use old paper sheets to soak up leaks at the bottom of your trash can. Why not do some origami (crafts made of folded paper) to keep yourself busy?
28. Cardboard Boxes
Cardboard boxes can be used for storage and shipping. You can also use cardboard to make arts and crafts projects and toys.
29. Bread Ties
If you have a lot of electronics, then you probably have cables galore and they’re likely going all over the place?
They get tangled up and it’s a nightmare to fix them, so how do you get around this problem?
It’s quite simple: take the ties from a bread bag and thread the cables through them.
This helps to keep everything organized and neat and avoids the mess of tangled cables around your desk.
30. Egg Cartons
Egg cartons are a popular choice for arts and crafts projects and make great planters for seedlings in your garden. I’ve also seen some guys use egg cartons for makeshift soundproofing for YouTube/live streaming content.
31. Paper Plates and Cups
Paper cups can be used for storage and for water for painting, and paper plates can be used to make fun masks for kids. You can make stencils for arts and crafts with them.
32. Empty Contact Lens Cases
Much like the lip balm containers, you can wash out old contact lens cases and store small amounts of cosmetics for convenient travel – that way you don’t have a ridiculous number of bottles taking up space in your bags.
33. Crayons and Colored Pencils
Make DIY picture frames using old, broken crayons and colored pencils. Another cool use for old crayons is candle making. You can melt down the old wax crayons and make candles out of them.
34. Regular Pens and Pencils
Unfortunately, regular pens and pencils don’t always make the recyclables list BUT you can use them to make interesting Christmas decorations and toys, you can also make frames with them (like with the crayons). If you have excess pens and pencils, donate them to schools.
35. Toothbrushes and Toothpaste Tubes
You can reuse old toothbrushes to scrub those hard-to-reach nooks and crannies in the house.
You can also use them to apply hair dye and brush your eyebrows and clean tools. Toothpaste tubes can be used as frosting piping tubes, you can make funnels out of them.
36. Old Razors
I’m pretty sure we’ve all got a few disposable razors lying around, and I’m also pretty sure that a lot of us just reuse them when we need to shave.
With that in mind, how do you prevent rust? After all, using a rusty blade is NEVER a good idea.
Well, for starters make sure you put the plastic cap over the blade again when you’re done. You can also apply a bit of baby oil to the blade.
37. Aluminum Cans
Aluminum soda cans make great pencil holders/stationery organizers, and they’re flexible enough to make interesting art projects.
38. Yogurt Containers
I feel like we’ve talked about this a few times, but yogurt containers are good storage options, you can also make decent makeshift pots for plants.
39. Plastic/Glass Bottles
Apart from the obvious use – drinking – bottles can be used a few ways. You can make stationery organizers and funnels from plastic ones – always useful – and you can make wind chimes from glass ones.
40. Shoe Boxes
One word: storage. Shoe boxes make excellent storage options for all the necessities that you don’t have space for in your cupboards or on your shelves.
41. Shredded Paper
Shredded paper doesn’t seem usable, but you can make it into mulch for your garden, if you’re so inclined.
42. Empty Food Cans
Apart from the obvious uses for empty food cans (i.e. storage), you can make a few interesting toys – does anyone remember making telephones? You can also make billy cans for cooking small meals over a campfire.
43. Scrap Wood
If you’ve got sheets or pieces of scrap pine/plywood, you can use that for a variety of DIY projects. You can make furniture, organizers, toys, and spice racks among other things.
44. Coffee Pods
Personally, I gravitate towards instant coffee because it’s instant – I don’t have to wait for the machine to ding and tell me the coffee’s ready.
With that said, if you prefer brewed coffee over instant coffee and you have one of those pod machines, you can break down the pods into their primary components (aluminum, plastic, paper, and coffee grounds) and recycle them.
45. Coffee Grounds
Coffee grounds are great for your compost heap, I’ve also seen them use them as air fresheners.
46. Old Athletics Shoes
There are a few companies that have recycling programs for old shoes which is fantastic, but if your shoes are in good shape and they don’t fit anymore you can also donate them to charities.
47. Old Electronics
Old electronics can’t be recycled with everything else; they have to be recycled separately.
Take them to recycling centers that are equipped to deal with them where they can be broken down and all the bits and bobs put to new uses.
Rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries are recyclable. Depending on where you are, there may be a mail-in program, a battery drop-off point, or a special recycling center that works with batteries.
49. Old Holiday Decorations
Cleaning up after the holiday season can be a real mess. If you have a lot of damaged decorations and lights it only adds to the confusion. With that in mind, take those old, damaged decorations to be recycled.
This will depend on where you are as not all pharmacies will have a recycling program for inhalers. If they do, the inhalers will be broken down into plastic and aluminum and sent off to be recycled.
No, not the products – the containers. Tubs and tubes can be recycled and reused without much difficulty, and some companies will have a recycling program in place to aid in the process.
Certain companies will recycle mattresses for scrap metal (springs), foam, or fibers/material.
Yes, you can reuse bras – pretty obvious, right? Well, what if the bras don’t fit anymore? Well, then you send it off to be redistributed to someone who needs it.
This one makes sense, but it also sort of doesn’t; let me explain. The idea is that you donate old pairs of glasses to people who need them; that’s great!
Where it gets a bit confusing is that sunglasses can be non-prescription (again, this is great) but prescription lenses are also donated.
So, what’s the problem? Well, I was always told not to mess around with other people’s prescription lenses because they’d damage my eyes.
No two prescriptions will be the same, so there’s no guarantee that your old prescription spectacles will work.
Still, it’s a good idea and there are specific programs for recycling eyeglasses so it’s not impossible.
55. Hearing Aids
Okay, so much like the eyeglasses, there are specific programs available for recycling/repurposing hearing aids to be sent out to people who need them.
56. Old Greetings Cards
This is a cool one that I had to include because it works towards a great cause. The St. Jude’s Ranch for Children has a program where they recycle old greetings cards to make and sell new ones.
The sales of these new cards help to fund programs for abused, homeless, and neglected children – see why I had to include it?
I grew up on hiking trails and any hiker will tell you, your pack is one of your best friends.
Certain companies like the American Birding Association collect backpacks and other gear to be redistributed to researchers and conservationists who are working to preserve/protect wildlife.
We only have ONE Planet!
The amount of recyclable waste that we’re just ignoring is frightening. We only have one planet on which to live and if the environment is gone then so are we!
As frustrating as recycling can be, we need to at the very least put in the effort to keep our environment healthy. Every little bit helps, right?
I hope you guys and gals enjoyed the article and found it informative. Maybe it gave you a few ideas on things to reuse.
As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the next one. Until then, take care!
Greg is a South African farmer and homesteader who’s been around animals ever since he can remember. He’s also an avid camper and hiker.