Upcycling is a growing trend in crafting — and with good reason. It’s a way to take items you might otherwise discard and make something useful out of them. This lowers your impact on the environment since you’ll contribute less trash to landfills.
The American Iron and Steel Institute reports that globally, about 88% of steel is recycled. But steel isn’t the only material we can use again. With Earth Day coming up in April, now is a good time to give not-yet-discarded items a new purpose. Here are some ways to reuse everyday trash for clever crafting projects.
Crafting with Plastic Bottles
Synthetic polymers, which are used in many everyday items like plastic bottles, were developed en masse in the decades after 1940. Although many people are trying to use less plastic, you’ve probably accumulated a lot of bottles in your household. Fortunately, there are many ways to repurpose them.
One idea for making something useful out of the plastic bottles we discard every day is to create zipper cases. These can be used to organize small items like beads, rubber bands, paper clips, markers, and children’s toys.
For each case, use the bottoms of two plastic bottles of the same brand and size and attach them with a single zipper that fits around the bottle, with a small overlap at the end. Cut the tops off the bottles using heavy-duty scissors, trimming the bottoms down to the size of the objects you want to place in the finished case. Glue the overlapped ends of the zipper with hot glue. Next, glue the zipper inside one of the bottles, with the working part of the zipper facing out. When you come to the end of the zipper, overlap the zipper’s fabric ends and glue them onto the bottle. Glue the opposite side of the zipper to the second bottle. Keep going until the zipper is glued all around the bottle.
Other ideas for repurposing plastic bottles:
- Use them to store snacks, sugar, and spices
- Punch holes in the cap of an empty laundry detergent bottle and use it to water plants, or cut off the bottom and make a beach bucket to scoop sand.
- Make a two-liter soda bottle into a yard sprinkler by punching holes in it and attaching a garden hose to spray through it.
Crafting with Candy Wrappers
Almost 25% of adults in the U.S. will consume at least one piece of candy every single day. This means a lot of candy wrappers may end up in the garbage. Wrappers from candy might seem like nothing but trash, but you can save them from the landfill by making them into useful objects.
- Jewelry: You can create a bracelet by folding a wrapper over and over and tying the ends with a ribbon, or create beads to use for earrings and necklaces by rolling up wrappers into oblong shapes.
- Festive curtains: Make wrappers into bows, suspend them on threads, and hang the threads in a doorway to serve as a brightly colored curtain.
- Halloween bowls: Glue several colorful wrappers to a plastic bowl, using craft glue, and you’ll have the perfect receptacle to use next Halloween.
- Food box bookmarks: Take an empty candy box and open it up. Figure out how you want the bookmark to look, and then trim the box, using a paper cutter for a straight edge. Stitch a zig-zag pattern on all edges, then stitch a ribbon to the top.
- Candy wrapper belt: Choose a candy wrapper you love and make sure you have enough packages to make the length you want. You’ll also need a buckle from a discarded belt and clear packing tape. Tape the end of one wrapper to the end of the next until you have the length you need. You can make a single layer or a double layer with wrappers showing on either side. Use the clear packing tape to cover the strip, with extra tape on the edges of the belt. Make a loop at the strip’s end and wrap it around the middle of the buckle, fixing it in place with the tape.
Crafting with Paper Rolls
Most households accumulate lots of paper rolls left from used rolls of paper towels or toilet paper. They may seem like they should just be thrown away, but you can use them for a variety of crafting projects:
- Toy garage — Take a shoebox (or a slightly bigger box) and glue rows of toilet paper or paper towel rolls inside. A toy car or other small toy can fit inside each roll, keeping these little items nicely organized.
- Pen and marker organizers — Cut toilet paper and paper towel rolls to the sizes you need to hold your writing and drawing instruments. Next, trim pieces of toilet paper so that they are slightly wider than the rolls, but keep enough length so that they can be wrapped around the rolls three to four times. Glue the toilet paper to the rolls with a glue stick, increasing the amount of glue as you go. Let the rolls dry, and then trim the edges of the rolls. Apply washi tape to the edges and decorate the toilet paper.
- Pillow boxes for small gifts — Take a toilet paper or paper towel roll and remove any pieces of paper. Gently press the roll flat, but leave enough room so that the gift can be placed inside. Create a curve at each end by scoring it with an X-Acto knife. Press the ends where the roll is scored to make the sides of the box. Decorate the outside with a strip of wrapping paper, glitter, or a ribbon.
Polyethylene is the most common plastic, with annual global production around 80 million tons. Don’t let all that plastic go to waste. These are just a few ideas for crafting. There are many more ways to craft using trash that would otherwise be discarded. Use your imagination and look around for things you could repurpose as fun, colorful items.