Don't chuck it! New uses for everyday objects

A good way to help the environment is to avoid throwing household waste in the bin when it can easily be put to another use. To help you along the way, here are some ideas on how you can use everyday items and rubbish for purposes beyond their original design.

Egg cartons

Egg cartons are ideal containers for paints, such as acrylics and oils. The compartments will help divide the different colours and stop them mixing together. Once you have finished using the carton, you can leave it to dry and reuse it the next time you pick up the paint brush. If art is not your thing, then you can just leave the carton in the recycling bin.

Related: How to organise your recycling

Paper bags

The best thing you can do with a paper bag is to keep on using it until it is no longer of use. However, when the bag has clearly seen better days, you can give it one last opportunity to be useful by converting it into a protective cover for the book you are reading. Another idea is to use it as paper for artwork or even doodles. Crayons or pastels work well on this type of material.

Related: 10 Things you didn't know you could recycle

Toilet rolls

If you have small children, you can collect the cardboard from empty toilet rolls or kitchen rolls. When you have a good amount, you can take them to your children’s nursery so that the teachers can use them for an art project. Another idea is to decorate them and fill them with sweets before giving them to your children as a treat.

Related: Easy crafts from recycled stuff

Large plastic bottles

You can transform empty plastic bottles into plastic bag holders. Cut away the base of a large bottle and unscrew and remove the bottle top. The bottle can be decorated with Papier-mache and painted later or with coloured paper. Turn the bottle upside down and then hang it behind your pantry door or another suitable space in your kitchen. Place the plastic bags inside and later, when you need to use a bag, you can begin removing them via the mouth of the bottle.

Related: 10 Guilt-free, easy tips for the lazy environmentalist

Glass jars

Glass jars are excellent containers in which to store homemade jams and pickles, as well as other foodstuffs like biscuits, spices, pasta or vegetables. They can also be put to use as plant pots or even as vases for flowers. To decorate a table or sideboard, you can choose jars of different heights and sizes and fill them with flowers that you like.

Related: Reduce, reuse, redesign: Home decor gone green


When you have a sponge that you no longer use, cut off the parts that are still in good condition and use it to decorate your walls with prints. The sponge can be cut into a number of fun shapes, such as flowers, stars and fish.

Related: 10 Ways to go green and save your business


Every day we throw away cardboard boxes of different shapes and sizes. For example, boxes of tea, cereals, rice and biscuits usually all go straight in the bin. However, if you have a young family, you should think about how these boxes can be used to keep your children entertained. Boxes can be stuck together and painted to make a variety of things, such as robots, cities or space ships.

Related: 12 Green businesses you have to invest in


Ground coffee that you have already used can be put to use in your garden or in your plant pots. Mix it with soil and use it as fertiliser for your plants. Mixing coffee with soil keeps it soft and aerated, making it easier for water to reach the roots and allowing the plants to develop to their maximum potential.

Related: The health benefits of coffee


Old wood or metal buckets make great containers for all sorts of things. For example, you could use them as storage space for umbrellas, tennis balls or potatoes. Another idea is to turn them into plant pots. You can give them a lick of paint or a bit of a polish and then place them in the corner of your garden or in your patio.

Related: 10 Ways to improve energy efficiency

Small plastic bottles

Small plastic bottles are normally quickly tossed in the bin. However, they can be turned into musical instruments. All you have to do is fill them with rice or lentils and pop the top back. You will now have a percussion instrument or even, if you like, a child’s rattle. To give the bottle that final touch, try decorating it with paint or in any other creative way you can think of.

Related: Save energy at home with these handy tips

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About the Author

Cecilia Galli has been working as a journalist and editor for more than 15 years. She has covered a wide range of subjects, including environmental protection, creative entrepreneurship, parenting, relationships and urban lifestyles. Galli holds a B.A. in mass communications.