Today, the majority of people have become oblivious to the waste that is ending up in landfills. Has the generation of people who could construct, and repair things been superseded by people who are too eager to throw things away?
Many items that are broken are simply thrown away. Countless items that are not broken, but no longer wanted will also end up in the trash bin.
There are endless items that are designed to be single-use items that actually can be used again for the same purpose, or can be repurposed with little change.
What do we mean by repurposed? Quite simply, a plastic water bottle bought from a store is designed to hold water until it has been used before throwing into the trash bin.
This simple single-use plastic water bottle is the most underutilized item in the world, and is responsible for the largest ecological crises that the world has seen.
It’s so easy to turn this simple bottle into a funnel that can be used again and again… or how about a bird feeder? The lifespan of these bottles is only limited by our imagination.
There are a huge number of items both small and large that are sent to trash that with a few creative ways can be repurposed for countless different functions, storage, gifting, and decorating.
I compiled a list of items that can easily be repurposed with a little imagination and a few skills. The list only shows a few ideas for each item however, for many items, there are huge numbers of re-purposing options.
Mega-List of Things to Repurpose
Probably the ultimate item that can be repurposed rather than throwing it out is food. Vegetables that are past their best, as well as peelings, can be assigned to the compost bin where they will, after a short time turn into the most wonderful rich compost.
Many food items and even some clothes bought from stores are in plastic bags. These bags are always worth keeping as they can be used in many different ways.
Wrapping compost around plant stems for air layering cuttings is an important propagation method for many plants. Taking a break whilst painting the house wrap the brush or roller in a plastic bag to prevent them from drying out. Twisted plastic bags make good plant ties.
Plastic jugs can be used for planters, for protecting delicate cuttings as a holder to attach to a belt to keep items that are being used whilst undergoing house maintenance. Attach one with a small hole to a belt to dispense string or twine in the garden or workshop. Some handles are hollow, these can be cut off and used as a funnel.
Plastic jugs floated in livestock troughs can be filled with one part water and two parts salt to prevent the troughs from freezing over during the winter.
I find there are normally 2 types of bread tags. Thin ones, ideal for supporting plants in the garden and organizing redundant cables and wires:
…and thicker ones that are good for inserting into a face mask to hold the mask on the nose:
Milk, Juice, and Cartons
Cardboard cartons are useful for planting cuttings or anything that would benefit from planting without disturbing the roots since They can be planted in the garden in the container. Over time the carton will rot away. Plastic cartons are useful for storing anything from screws to seeds.
Countless fragile items that are packaged in boxes use polystyrene to protect them from damage. This product is perfect for stopping drafts. A piece fitted into a box or tin or cut down plastic bottle can be used to store screwdrivers or artist’s paintbrushes.
Storing and organizing just about anything small and thin can be easily solved by using a redundant CD Binder. Any seed packet or business cards can be stored in any order that is required.
An envelope taped open on a wall below where a hole is going to be drilled will catch all the dust. This will prevent any further cleaning requirements.
Some old suitcases are quite attractive, and can easily be turned into decorative pieces around the house. A stack of two or three attached at different angles with a toughened glass top makes an attractive table.
Remember when they said a CD would last forever? Well that is true, but it will not necessarily work forever. Old CDs hung from a wire or string in the garden can deter some insects and other pests.
Cereal boxes are very versatile, and can be used in many different ways. With one end cut off, they are perfect for storing magazines or any other paper, maybe printing paper or sheets of labels. Cut into squares they make good funnels or dividers for files to organize filing cabinets.
These containers are used for all sorts of foodstuffs by supermarkets. Since they have a lid, they are perfect for storing all sorts of products. Colored crayons, chalks, or even the artist’s paints can be stored separately and stacked. Craft materials can also be stacked, leaving the contents identifiable.
Plastic clothes hangers quite often have clips, sometimes plastic and sometimes metal. These clips can be used as clips for sealing food bags or with a thin piece of wood can create a clipboard.
Wooden hangers can have small hooks screwed into them to hang keys, teacups, or just about anything in the workshop.
Old curtain rods are ideal for cutting and installing in a wardrobe or cupboard to hang many types of articles.
In the workshop they can be hung on the wall and with hooks or bent wire are ideal for hanging any long-handled tools.
Fast Food Drink Carrier
These drink carriers are great for carrying many items at a picnic. Cups or jars can be placed in the carrier and stacked in the workshop to store different items.
Five Gallon Buckets
There is a multitude of uses for an old 5 gallon bucket. Working on a project around the house put all the tools you need in a bucket to have them all at hand. Store wallpaper, mosquito net, or anything else that rolls into tubes.
A bucket with a large hole drilled into the base can be hung to create an animal feed dispenser.
Flexible Culvert Pipe
These handy pipes can be cut from top to bottom and fitted around a young tree to protect them from being eaten or damaged by animals.
These pipes are also handy for grouping together any electrical or water pipes together to keep them tidy. This will also help to protect them.
A garden hose can be cut to cover any exposed metal inside or outside the house. They can also be used as grips on wooden handles or wheelbarrows.
Broken Laundry Basket
Laundry baskets are often made of plastic that can deteriorate over some time. I cut the bottom off. The smaller section of the basket is good for many different storage solutions. Storing cables in the workshop or any rolled-up items at the bottom of the wardrobe.
Two bucket lids joined together with blocks of wood make a great cable or hose real.
Cardboard boxes have to be one of the top items for reuse. Always a good idea to have some cardboard under the generator when I am changing the oil.
My cats love playing in boxes, so I make activity centers, and even winter beds for them.
Use golf tees as an aid for planting seeds in the greenhouse.
Hanging Shoe Caddy
An old shoe caddy is perfect for storing lightweight items such as hand tools, seeds, small rolls of string, or cord. A kitchen pantry is always short on space, one of these hanging behind the pantry door can store food products or rolls of storage bags.
Laundry jugs are one of my favorite containers. Left intact, they can be used to store old oil or pour new oil into difficult to reach engines.
Watering cans can be made by cutting the top off and attaching a spout. They are also great for storing just about anything in the house or workshop by cutting the top or sometimes just creating a window.
An old plastic or metal mailbox can be mounted on the wall int the house by the door creating the perfect place to put winter or work gloves so that they are to hand when you go out. They are equally useful in the workshop for those items that are constantly needed yet seem to disappear if not stored away.
Mesh Produce Bags
Stores sell many items in a multitude of sized mesh bags. They make perfect storage containers for bathtub items.
Placed in guttering, they will prevent leaves from blocking downpipes and drains. Flies can often make small items on the washing line dirty; hang the items in a mesh bag keeps the flies away.
Muffin Tins and Ice Cube Trays
An old ice cube tray can be used as an organizer to keep track of regular medication for people and animals. Craft items such as beads and buttons fit well into an ice cube tray. An old muffin tin can be used in the workshop for storing and sorting small items.
Fresh herbs can be frozen in water in the compartments of a muffin tin. These hereby ice cubes provide a good source of fresh herbs for cooking throughout the year.
I love books so I am not a fan of repurposing them, but sometimes there is the odd book that is no longer required. The insides of a book can be cut into to create an effective secure store for some precious items. An alternative use is to use the pages to make an art display or decorate furniture. Papier Mache is a fun practice too.
Glue some old carpet scraps onto the feet of wooden furniture to allow easy movement on wooden floors.
An old carpet is also perfect for insulating different areas of the house in the winter. A piece of carpet placed on top of a car engine helps to retain some heat, but only when the car is not in use.
Old clothes never die, the leg of an old pair of trousers filled with old socks helps with a drafty door. Old shirts are great for cleaning cloths in the workshop. Old flannels or towels can be cut up and are great for cleaning windows or for stuffing children’s toys.
Keep the birds at bay in the garden and protect crops by making a scarecrow from some old clothes.
Any curtains that are no longer required can be turned into cushions or pet beds. When decorating an old curtain helps to protect the floor from any mess.
If the handle of a rake is broken a new one can be made to repair, however, if the rake is no longer needed it can be attached to a workshop wall to hang a multitude of things.
Hang in the kitchen to create a useful rack for hanging utensils.
An old hoe that is no longer required can be fixed to a heavy base and positioned next to a door. This will make it easy to remove boots.
Old tires can be repurposed in numerous ways. They make great planters or, packed with soil, they make walls or even buildings.
They are a perfect material for repairing work boots or shoes. A tree with an overhanging branch is perfect for a rope with an old tire to create a children’s swing.
You may have a tin of old shoe polish that is perhaps no use because of its color or possibly it has started to dry up. This is a very useful product for repairing damage to wooden furniture.
Old Trash Cans
A few holes in an old metal trash can makes a perfect container for burning rubbish safely whilst preventing burning ash spreading.
Metal and plastic cans are good for creating potato towers. They can also be used to store bags of pet and livestock feed to protect them from rodents and moisture.
Packing peanuts make excellent material for stuffing homemade soft toys or cushions. Pushed on to sharp blades or pointed tools they help to prevent personal injury. Working with electrical wire,s these can be pushed onto the exposed wire to prevent accidental short circuits.
They are also good for insulating some areas of a house, however, be aware that some peanuts will disintegrate on contact with water.
Glass and Plastic Jars
The lid of a jar screwed on the underside of a shelf in the pantry or workshop allows the jar to be used for a multitude of storage options, craft supplies, dried herbs, seeds, screws, and nails.
Mounting them under a shelf makes the contents easy to see. They are also good for preserving your produce for your store cupboard.
Pet collars are normally strong items and can be used to keep a cable or hose coiled or even for transporting things outside. Attach on to your belt to carry a drinking bottle when out walking.
Plastic Pill Bottles
As these bottles are small, they are perfect for many tiny craft items and small screws, nails, and washers. They are also perfect in the kitchen pantry for storing dried herbs, although it certainly a good idea to remove or cover the label.
Plastic Water or Pop Bottles
Plastic water bottles are extremely versatile, they can be cut in a multitude of ways to create craft products and decorations. A small cutter can will turn a plastic bottle into an amazingly long strong plastic thread that can be used for numerous applications in the home and outside.
Storage containers, funnels, bird feeders, hanging planters are all useful ideas.
PVC pipe is available in a multitude of sizes making this product a very versatile product. I have a large bore pipe in the corner of my workshop that holds long-handled tools. Another one holds any offcuts of copper and plastic piping. I have even cut a midsize pipe into small sections to act as a form for making cheesecake.
Cable, string, and wire can also be wrapped around PVC pipe keeping them tidy and visible for later selection.
Re-purpose an old section of a rain gutter to create a vertical garden for small plants and herbs, wall-mounted storage, or to develop a hydroponic garden.
Guttering is also useful to act as a covering that can be filled with insulation for exterior water piping or cables. This also helps to protect them from animal damage.
Rubber Chair Leg Cap
Rubber caps from chairs or stands can be used to cover hammerheads when working with delicate materials.
Fixed to the floor by a door they will prevent a door opening too wide thus preventing damage to the wall. A straight branch from a hardwood tree with a cap fitted makes a good walking stick.
Scrap Building Materials
Never throw any odd building materials away they will always be useful. I once rebuilt my kitchen cupboards purely from scrap building materials, and the best bit is that they were not my scrap building materials. I found them in a dumpster.
Shelves, sheds, animal pens, lamps, art projects, and decoration as well as many other projects can all utilize scrap building materials.
Occasionally tools will break, or sometimes they are no longer needed, but that doesn’t mean they are no good, they can often be used for other things. A screwdriver can be used to help with planting seeds.
A hole drilled in a spanner will allow a padlock to be fitted through to make a device that will fit through two door handles to make them secure. I‘ve also seen many artistic creations made from old tools.
Soda Pop Tabs
These little aluminum pop tabs are incredibly strong and can easily be used to hang artwork and picture frames. They can also be used as keyrings, and are fabulous for homemade jewelry. Belts, straps lampshades, and even clothes can be made with these tiny objects.
Not sure if clothes would be practical or comfortable and would certainly need a huge number of tabs.
Swimming Pool Noodles
Pool noodles are great protecting sharp furniture edges in the home if there are young children or pets around. They are also good for preventing pipes from vibrating against each-other.
If I am carrying heavy sacks, I put a rope through the noodle that can be attached to the sacks. I position the noodle on my neck, and spread the heavy load.
Three Ring Binders
You can use old three-ring binder spines mounted on a wall to grip broom handles or walking sticks.
If you are working from technical drawings or a plan in the workshop a three-ring binder can be attached above the work desk with the plans hanging in plastic folders. This allows for good visibility and keeps them out of the way.
Tin cans with holes cut in the side are good outdoor candle holders. Some fragranced candles are good at keeping insects away.
A tin with a wire handle is a good container for paints when working in tight areas on delicate jobs. Tin cans joined together and sprayed black inserted in a glass-topped box makes a great solar heater.
When tomato cages are no longer of use, they can be used to protect other plants from unwanted animal attention. Create a trendy lamp fitting for indoors or an outside multi candle holder. A plant potholder or a birdbath feed table are all good ideas.
Wine bottles can be used in construction to create stunning effects, a wall made of wine bottles creates fabulous lighting effects. They can be easily cut in various ways to create plant containers, desk tidies, or even drinking glasses.
Corks attached to a bunch of keys prevent keys from being lost in the water. Corks glued together and trimmed can be used to create drink coasters or placemats. Corks are also good for sealing tubes of glue or caulking that have been opened.
Wooden spoons are always useful in the workshop for stirring paints or wood treatments. Small sections of cord or cable can be wound around the handle to keep them organized. Painted and hung from string they also make good wind chimes.
When butter is taken from their wrappers that last bit of butter is always left behind. Don’t throw these wrappers away. Keep them in a plastic container or a Ziploc bag in the fridge, when you next need to grease baking trays or dishes use a wrapper.
There are hundreds of clever ways to reuse a tissue box!
When someone in the house has a cold attach an old tissue box to the one being used to dispose of the used tissues. With the top cut off they become a useful storage item for office or workshop. Seeds, cards, and many art supplies will stack easily in this tray.
An old shower curtain is perfect for a picnic table covering or for any table outside. This allows the table to be wiped clean of food or debris from messy jobs. A shower curtain cut to the size of a windshield will prevent ice forming if it is placed on the windshield overnight.
They are also a useful item for protecting the floor from paint spills whilst decorating.
Large baskets with use soon come apart at the seams, it still looks attractive so rather than throwing it away re-purpose it into a great recycling center. Place smaller labeled waste baskets inside the wicker basket to separate and organize recycling items.
The basket would be fine for anything that needs storing in an organized way. Rolls of towels flannels or tea towels would all be perfectly organized in this basket.
Old Wire Baskets
Old wire baskets such as those used for blanching or straining vegetables or even cooking fries can be repurposed into trendy light fittings. If sprayed, they can be used as storage in the workshop, pantry, or wardrobe.
Old freezer baskets can be suspended from shelves in the pantry or workshop for storing bulky items.
Most old furniture, no matter how wobbly it is, will always have an alternative use. An old dresser or kitchen table will be great in the workshop or could be turned into a bench for outside dining.
Pet boxes or beehives can also be made from old pieces of furniture.
Cracked plates may no longer be suitable for eating from but there are many other uses for them. Some are quite decorative and can be hung on the wall or broken into pieces to decorate a picture frame. Maybe a birdbath or feeder for the winter months.
They are also useful in the workshop for mixing epoxy resins or other similar products.
Broken Washing Machine
A broken washing machine contains many parts that can be used in alternative ways.
The drum makes a good firepit or even a planter. The wire from inside the machine is always useful. Depending on why the machine has broken, the water pump, and possibly the motor, may be of use for irrigation.
Ladders, especially wooden ones reach a stage where they are no longer safe to use. They may still be good as a towel rack or for hanging plants against a wall. If the ladders are long, they could be cut to form two sections which could be joined with planks to create shelves.
Although cutlery lasts for a long time the occasional item can break or become marked or scratched. Many craftwork and workshop tasks can often be made easier with a piece of cutlery.
Working with seedlings and young plants can also be made easier with an old piece of cutlery.
When a refrigerator breaks down and cannot be repaired, it can be difficult to dispose of it. Relocate the refrigerator into the workshop and use it for storage, it is just like a cupboard.
However, remember the refrigerator is insulated, use it outside for outside dining. A tray or block of ice put into the fridge will take a long time to melt, and will keep food or drinks cool for some time.
There are times when both UPVC and wooden windows require replacing. These can be turned into cold frames in the garden for growing seeds.
When doors are replaced, they can be used for many different things. Tabletops, shelves, benches, even blackboards for that ever-growing to-do list.
Although this list of items that can be repurposed is extensive, it is certainly not definitive. There are several reasons why we should we be bothered about re-purposing to save trash.
The environment has to be at the top of the list for why re-purposing is important. The world’s population is growing rapidly, and so is the mountain of waste that is constantly being thrown into the trash bin.
Money is another important factor. I understand that for those with plenty of money it is no problem to refurbish their kitchen every two years, but there are many people even in wealthy countries such as the United States that are without very basic items.
The world resources are limited, with such high levels of waste, these resources, even with new ones being developed will soon become depleted.
As someone who’s made things from other items and repurposed things all my life, the above reasons are of course very important, however for me it is really fun.
I rarely throw things into the trash, now that doesn’t make me a hoarder, I just have a very good supply of materials that I can use to re-purpose items.
I constantly look for items in other people’s waste for things to re-purpose. There is nothing like the feeling of rescuing a tired old item from the trash, and turning it into something that has a function, something that is useful, and most importantly, something that looks good.
Three years ago, I bought an off-grid Cortijo in a small valley in the Andalucian mountains. This move was not really a planned decision to live of-grid, I just fell in love with the tranquil location. Although, perhaps the lifestyle is in my genes as my grandfather and his four brothers were Homesteaders in Alberta Canada in the 1900s. The mountains of Spain are a difficult place to grow many of the flowers that I was used to in the UK. However, veg grows well all year around peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, cucumber, melons and chard all fare well in the Mediterranean climate. Almond trees provide me with a cash crop of around 1 ton whilst still retaining some to make almond milk and flour.