6 Recycled Projects You May Not Have Thought of Before

by Jamie Simmerman · 23 comments

Recycling just makes sense. Making the effort may not be simple in a world of consumerism where most items are built to be replaced instead of repaired, but you too can recycle some common items into profitable pieces with a little ingenuity. Try these 6 ideas out at home to get started.

1. Skids. Recycling skids has become one of the favorite pastimes here on the farm. We have used plastic skids to make shelters for chickens, stray cats, and dogs. The sturdy construction means these houses hold up terrifically. We’ve also found that many skids are made from hardwoods. We took these hardwood skids apart, had the local Amish lumber mill plane them down, and made a nice floor for our storage room – all for the price of the planing service and a little varnish and sealer.

2. CDs and DVDs. We’ve all got a collection of irreparably scratched CDs and DVDs, but rather than throw them out, why not put them to use? Tie an old CD to a post with a length of fishing line in the garden to scare away birds. The CDs twirl and glitter in the sun and wind, effectively scaring off crows and other seed pecking birds.

3. Old jeans. Kid’s jeans seem to be plentiful around here, but once they reach the last child, they’re pretty beat up. My grandmother always cut them up into strips and tied them into rag rugs. However, we’ve found several crafty uses for old jeans, including this three ring binder cover that we made for all the school-aged girls in our family. You can also cut the tags off old clothes before getting rid of them, and sew the tags together for a tag blanket that babies love.

4. Baby diapers. More often than not, your little one seems to move up a diaper size overnight, leaving you with a few leftover diapers in a too-small size. You can always give these leftovers to your favorite little girl to put on her baby dolls, or you can save them up to make a diaper cake. A diaper cake is a fun project to give away at a baby shower. You make the “cake” out of rolled diapers and blankets, and decorate it with baby items such as rattles, ribbons, hair bows, and small toys.

5. Plastic jars. One of my pet peeves is the pile of cat toys that always seems to be underfoot. Previously, we tossed them into the cat bed, only to have her drag them out again a few minutes later. To solve the problem, we recycled a large plastic cheese puff jar into a cat toy holder. We cut a small hole in the bottom so the cat can reach in and fish for what she wants, and the kids decorated the jar pictures of mice and tuna. You can also recycle peanut butter jars to hold just about any small item, such as this Lady Bug Jar.

6. Newspapers. Old newspapers make great mulch when shredded, keep weeds down in the garden when placed around plants, and clean windows like nobody’s business (use with your vinegar or your favorite cleaner instead of paper towels).

Here’s one more! If you know how to crochet, or are willing to learn, you can finally put to use that stash of plastic chopping bags you have living in a cupboard somewhere. Simply cut the bags into long plastic loops (cut off the handles and bottom of the bad, then cut into strips) and crochet away. These make great beach bags, camping mats, and other water-resistant items!

What’s your favorite recycled project at home?

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

KM July 5, 2012 at 7:15 am

My favorite is to not create more trash in the first place. I have several canvas bags that I use when shopping and my family knows how annoying I can be about using them. I also just bought these reusable produce bags so I don’t have to use plastic bags for produce – I haven’t seen them previously, so this is something awesome I can’t wait to try since plastic bags are a pet peeve of mine, but trying to round up 20 loose apples on that conveyor belt for the cashier to weigh is silly. However, we use whatever plastic bags we do get (like when my husband shops without me or when we go to many stores in one day and run out of reusable bags), we use as trash bags in the bathroom – they are small and perfect for those bins.

Another nice prevention is using cloth diapers instead of disposables, so there are never any “left over” until the child is completely potty trained. I heard you can use the disposable ones to dry your car after a wash or whatnot, but that never really worked when I tried it.

I do like your idea of crocheting from plastic bags though – it reminds me of when my great-grandmother used old clothes to crochet rugs and chair cushions. I do something similar with old clothes by making toys for our parrots that she can rip and chew apart.


Marbella July 5, 2012 at 8:05 am

Baby food cans are ideal for storing nuts, bolts and nails in different sizes, they are small and takes up minimal space.


KM July 5, 2012 at 12:19 pm

To add to this, one awesome thing that my grandfather did in his garage was to glue the lids of those cans/jars to the bottom side of the shelf and unscrew to take it off. It keeps them organized, difficult to knock over and break, and they don’t take up valuable shelf space.


Kathryn C July 5, 2012 at 10:22 am

I use newspaper to wrap presents, it’s so fun. With a big red bow. I convince them it’s the new fad each time. but that fad never seems to come to fruition, oh well.


Barbie in Alaska July 16, 2012 at 7:54 am

I have used the comics to wrap presents for many years it is a good idea amd saves money


sandra October 12, 2012 at 4:58 am

I used to use the children’s large sheets of art work to wrap presents for family. The fridge could only hold so many!


Jean July 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Very interesting to know about the CD ‘scarecrow’. I will give that a go to discourage the annoying pigeons that mess up everything around the house.



Shane July 9, 2012 at 9:55 am

Great recycling tips I had not thought of some of them. I love the cat toy idea. I do have the same problem. Plus if you put some away they will be like new toys when you bring them back out. I try to rotate the toys so he doesn’t get bored with the ones he has.


Megan @ The Finance Geek July 10, 2012 at 10:00 am

I have had much better luck crocheting than knitting (despite having “learned” to knit four times), and I have a plethora of plastic grocery bags from when I forget my re-usable bags in the car. I kind of like the idea of crocheting a re-useable grocery bag out of plastic grocery bags. 😀

Also, I will vouch for the newspaper-as-window-cleaner thing. We always used newspaper when I was a kid, and I just thought it was because my dad was cheap. I tried cleaning my big sliding glass door with paper towel and Windex, and it streaked like you wouldn’t believe. With newspaper, it cleaned streak-free. Dunno why, but newsprint is the perfect thing for cleaning windows and mirrors.


Shane July 12, 2012 at 6:30 am

My neighbor uses skids to grow lettuce. and it is easy and takes us little space leaned against the wall.


Jodi September 14, 2012 at 11:37 pm

Ok, I give up. At the risk of sounding really dumb, what are ‘skids’? The only ones I know about were the wooden runners Dad’s neighbor put under his portable out house so that he could drag it into the field to serve at family reunions. (Eeeew!) This would was years ago, pre-PortaPotty.
And since I’m exposing my lingo ignorance, do you know what a ‘lens’ is?–I think it’s in regards to creative ideas for uses or reuses being shared out there in Internetland (which is one more on my list of unfathonable mysteries!).
Thanks a bunch! So skids would be a handy thing to have laying around, hmm?


carole September 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm

i believe skids are what we call pallets ,items are stacked on them for shipping . I agree with what you called skids .am I correct


lh October 18, 2012 at 4:33 pm

How do you grow lettuce in a skid/pallet leaning against a wall? I would love to know.


MJ November 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm

It’s a little tricky, but you staple landscape fabric to one side of the pallet and the the bottom. You put potting soil in the pallet, poke the started plants in between the slats on the other side. So you end up with rows of plants growing out between the slats and the landscape fabric keeps the soil in place. You can use it for herbs or any plant that doesn’t need a huge root area. No turnips or things like that.


Dianne July 26, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I have some friends that make mats out of plastic bags & give to the homeless


Susan August 9, 2012 at 10:02 pm

I like using retired maps and posters as wrapping paper …


sally August 16, 2012 at 4:04 am

what on earth are skids? thanks diapers are nappies, we know that but skids? no clue


rick September 11, 2012 at 5:08 pm

skids are pallets that production are sent on.


Priswell September 21, 2012 at 5:08 pm

We use old CDs as paint pallettes for painting plastic models. The surface is perfect for little dabs of paint mixing.


Adrienne November 4, 2012 at 8:26 am

I make great scoops from old milk plastic litre milk bottles. Just cut below the handle half way round the bottle. Cut off the bottom, then cut up each side as far as the first cut and remove this piece. Hey presto a handy scoop.


MJ November 26, 2012 at 8:05 pm

I rent and wanted a little spot of my own at the side of the building for summer use. I used 4 pallets/skids of the same size as the base, I didn’t want to spend a fortune on pressure treated 2X6’s. I then bought pressure treated fence boards. 4in X 10ft. They are thinner than decking and cheaper. Because of the way the pallets are made they created a very sturdy base and I screwed the decking down so I can remove it if/when I move. Found a metal frame gazebo with nylon roof on sale and assembled and attached it to the decking. There are holes in the frame to put spikes into the ground, I just picked up 8 washers and screwed it down to the deck. It worked perfectly, the spot was pretty level that I chose to place it and I only needed to shim it in a couple of places.


Tina December 30, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I use the plastic inners from frozen snacks and from boxes of chocolates to make gr8 ice-trays.


Grinch July 4, 2013 at 10:23 am

Lol about re-using diapers. We used cloth diapers with both of our kids, and my wife made baby wipes out of paper towels soaked in a baby shampoo & water mixture. I still use those old diapers for wax and grease rags. And my youngest daughter just turned 19!


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