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6 New Ways to Turn Trash to Treasure

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Looking for some fun new projects? These crafts will turn household waste into lovely new objects!


For some, January and February is a time when winter seems to drag on and there’s little to alleviate the doldrums — but not so for me! I see this time of year, when obligations are few, as an opportunity to work on the many projects that have been piling up during the busy fall and holiday season.


My Pinterest boards are bulging with ideas on repurposing stuff that might otherwise end up in the trash or the recycling bin. Those are the best kind of projects — the materials cost very little, you’re reducing household waste, and you’re getting creative with found objects — so instead of bemoaning the long nights and the lack of activities filling your calendar, why not get inspired and turn your trash into treasure? (Be sure you’re following Recyclebank’s Pinterest account; there are plenty more ideas there, too!)


Here are some things on my list of projects to tackle… I’m so excited that I’m in no rush for spring to come!


1. Have fun with Plarn. What’s plarn, you ask? I didn’t know either until I delved into the world of making projects with plastic bags. (Admit it: Even though you’re scrupulous about bringing your own bags to the supermarket, you’ve still somehow amassed a cabinet stuffed with those flimsy grocery bags!) Turns out plarn is a portmanteau for plastic and yarn. It makes a long strand of plastic that can then be knitted or woven into something else. I’m eager to try making a pouf like those sold by Hipcycle, or perhaps an oversized basket. I also love the idea of doing something altruistic with my craft, like knitting up a sleeping mat for a person who’s homeless.


2. Get crafty with wood scraps. My husband has recently gotten into furniture building. So far he’s built us a bedframe, a sectional seating unit for our porch, and a console table. But the odds and ends of wood are starting to pile up in our backyard, and since we don’t have a fire pit, I’m determined to find something to do with them. I love the idea of this bike made from wood scraps, but more realistically, I’m thinking of making some hook racks or designing some cute rustic wall art like those I’ve seen for big bucks at art fairs.


3. Make a resourceful birdfeeder. Using household waste to create a birdfeeder is an eco-friendly double whammy: Not only are you diverting stuff from the landfill, you’re also creating a haven for wild birds. This roundup of homemade birdfeeders features tin cans, wine bottles, old China, and even orange rinds.


4. Organize creatively with cardboard. I’m in love with this custom desk organizer made from cardboard stacked and glued together, so the corrugated sides become a design element. And I also love the idea of using that perfect-sized cardboard box to make a pretty storage basket by wrapping it in rope and lining it with fabric. With all the deliveries we get, we have no shortage of cardboard boxes, and I’m always looking for fun, creative things to do with them.


5. Transform bottles into nightlights. My husband recently stuffed a string of fairy lights into a mason jar to make a nightlight for my daughter. It turned out so pretty, reminiscent of fireflies caught in a jar, that I wanted to make a whole bunch of them. Wine bottles are also something I have no shortage of, and I think the lights will look so pretty glowing through the green or amber glass, too. This tutorial shows how to make wine bottle lights.


6. Turn junk mail into pretty handmade paper. We recycle mounds of paper, whether it’s old homework assignments, junk mail, bills, or work-related documents. I’ve long admired the beautiful handmade paper cards at fancy boutiques, so this year I might try my hand at making some myself! Making handmade paper is not hard, it just requires a blender and a framed screen for drying it. And there’s more to do with the finished paper than just using it for stationery: Ideas for handmade paper crafts range from fashioning a lampshade to creating 3-dimentional objects like bowls or decorative balls.



What are some of your favorite projects for upcycling household waste? Share your best ideas in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan
I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same. more
  • Steven S. 14 hours ago
    Posted Sunday, May 15, 2022
  • Barbara W. 1 day ago
    I had a good time at the party on Friday, but I am pooped today!
    • Katja Z. 15 hours ago
      I think that I threw my back out doing the limbo!!
      Probably why I was so cranky earlier.
      But it was fun!
      Enjoyed the watermelon.
      And the other cool fruit.
      Been way too hot this week.
      And I'm not quite ready for the heat just yet.
      Got a new fan on Friday.
      No air conditioner.
      87 on Friday.
    • Debra D. 13 hours ago
      Put a bowl of ice water in front of your fan, really helps to cool down
    • John J. 12 hours ago
      I hope OK shares some of tonight's cold front with D/FW but the prediction is that it mostly stalls out a little north of here. Thus far summer appears to have started way to early here - mid to upper 90's with some days breaking records plus bonus drought. I miss spring.
    • Barbara W. 11 hours ago
      Somedays have been too hot for May, ( should be around 79* but 88-90 instead). We did have some nice days with gentle breezes.
      I think in 7-10 days from now supposed to cool off up here-I hope so. Not a fan of Hot and Dry.
    • randy r. 2 hours ago
      I'm so tired tonight, I thought you said: I threw my back out doing the limber

      Re: << "I think that I threw my back out doing the limbo!!" <<
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  • Katja Z. 1 day ago
    Ughh this one again.
    I don't have the time or inclination to make some fancy crap out of crap that should go in the recycler.
    Just more junky clutter collecting dust.
    Yeah I'm feeling like a cranky old lady this morning.
  • Barbara W. 6 days ago
    Some countries revere their elders, they have a place of importance and honor in society. They are looked upon as a source of knowledge and wisdom.
    To bad it is not that way here in the US.
  • Jeannette M. 6 days ago
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