Bottles, Jars, Tubs
As much as we hate ’em, plastic containers are great candidates for recycling; they’re lighter than glass bottles; and won’t shatter if you accidentally drop one. It’s easy to see what’s inside, if the container is clear; if not, you can easily write the contents on it with a marker.
Welcome a new neighbour with a gift of organic cleaning supplies you’ve made yourself. Reuse the plastic containers that once held store-bought cleaning products. Pop your home-made concoctions into a vintage baking pan, small bucket, or basket and tie it all up with a recycled ribbon.
Use plastic large bottles and jars in the kitchen to store dry foods, pasta, sugar, beans, etc.; in the tool shed to hold nails, screws, and other small bits; in the laundry for holding detergent and soap powders.
Transform plastic bottles, jars, and tubs into miniature greenhouses. Just place the seedling (I use empty egg shells to start off my seedlings) into the lid of the jar and then flip the jar over it. If the container steams up, remove for about 30 minutes—the plant needs a bit of fresh air now and then to prevent mould from forming. Once the plant is about 1 1/2”, transplant it, still in its eggshell, into a pot, or into your garden.
Reuse those two-litre plastic pop bottles (the clear ones) this way, too. Simply cut off the bottom of the bottle and place the bottle over a seedling. The cut off part makes a cute candy dish which your kids can decorate.
Plastic pop bottles can also be turned into effective bug catchers when you are dining al fresco. Cut off the top as before and flip the cut off part back inside the bottle. Punch a hole on either side and add a string or wire. Add a bit of sugared water (or soda pop) to entice those pesky critters inside. Hang the bug catcher close to your eating area. About an hour before you start eating so that the bugs will be too busy at the bug catcher to bother with yours.
For a really, no-cost but clever and useful gift, transform a clear plastic candy container into a ‘jewellery’ box. The foil compartments are perfect for keeping your jewels neat and tidy.
Don’t toss out clear, plastic food produce tubs. These make great storage containers for all the little bits and pieces that take up precious space in drawers. They’re stackable and because they’re clear, it’s easy to see what’s inside. Keep seasonal socks, gloves and mittens, scarves, and hats in the larger ones. The smaller ones are great in the craft room and workshop. You can see at a glance what’s inside and they easily stack on top of each other. They’re also sturdy enough to hold all kinds of craft supplies.
Boaters: turn a large plastic jug that has a handle into an anchor marker. Slip a rope around the handle and attach to the top end of the anchor chain. These containers can also be turned into emergency buoys.
I make my own bath salts and use plastic seedling pots (well cleaned out, of course), plastic laundry detergent scoops, even empty latté cups as containers. Great for quick and easy gifts. The recipe for my ‘famous’ (at least amongst my friends and family) bath salts is easy. Just mix sea salts with Epsom salts, add a few drops of your favourite essential oil, and finally, my ‘secret’ ingredient, a half-cup of powdered milk.
Bags,Baskets and Scoops
Despite all my best efforts, I seem to accumulate plastic bags more than any other type of plastic. Why this is so I’m not sure, but I do work hard at recycling it. Here are some of my ways of dealing with plastic bags.
When I bring home any produce in plastic bags, I wash and dry these and bring them with me when I go shopping for my veggies, fruit and nuts and beans. A lot of produce now comes in resealable plastic bags. Once these are empty, you can reuse them in countless new ways after you’ve washed and dried them; for example, to store your silver cutlery to reduce tarnishing. This also works for your silver jewellery. Or you can organize your embroidery threads by colour in separate resealable bags.
Plastic milk bags are strong and great for reusing. Just cut off the tops and wash them. Then reuse them to store food or sandwiches. Send your college kids their favourite soup and cookie ingredients in these bags as they are very strong and will survive mailings.
It’s easy to turn plastic grocery bags into beads. You use the same technique that you would use to make beads from paper. Cut a triangle out of the plastic bag and roll this triangle up from the broad to the narrow end over a wooden toothpick or skewer (this leaves a space for threading a string through). Do the first roll up without applying glue; then unfurl the bead, apply the glue (white craft glue) and roll it up again. Like paper beads, you can leave the bead like that or apply a layer of lacquer.
Transform a plastic box that once held computer parts into a lunch tray. Use empty plastic lemon juice containers for holding salad dressings and small plastic boxes as salt and pepper shakers. Take one to work along with cloth napkins and some of your special cutlery for office lunches with pizzazz!
Plastic tops from purchased food containers become instant coasters for cold drinks or under small flower pots or use these under the feet of furniture that you need to move around. These will keep the floor scratch free.
Plastic berry baskets make fun beach or bath baskets for your kiddies. Just twist on a pipe cleaner for a handle.
Those small plastic laundry scoops that come inside detergent boxes can be reused in the laundry, the kitchen for baking and cooking, for scooping up pet food, in the sandbox, or at the beach to make sand castles and tunnels. I use larger scoops to gift bath salts to friends and family. You can also reuse those smaller scoops that come inside coffee cans.
You can turn a bunch of plastic mesh produce bags,the ones that hold potatoes, onions and oranges, into instant pot scrubbers that last forever (not surprising!!). Scrunch a few of those mesh or net bags together with a recycled elastic band to make an scouring pad that won’t scratch your pots and pans. You can also use these to scrub out your bathtub and sinks without leaving a scratch. You’ll never need to buy another pot scrubber again. If you only have one or two of these mesh bags, insert a kitchen foam sponge inside one for scouring pots and pans.
These mesh bags also make excellent exfoliators in the bath. Stick in a bar of soap inside one, tie with a pretty ribbon, and scrub away!!
Foam and Solid Styrofoam Packing
Use those soft protective plastic foam inserts (used to protect small computer parts) for dish washing, general cleaning, or scrubbing your car clean. Cut them into cute animal shapes for the kiddies to use in their bath. Larger plastic inserts can be used as cushions at sports events like ball or soccer or hockey games or when you go on a picnic.
Cut these up into smaller bits, too, and use them for covering up the hole in garden pots when planting. They absorb any left over water and also don’t allow the soil to come out.
Styrofoam. The polystyrene packing that came with your new computer or appliance is pretty hard to get rid of, and usually is not accepted in recycling bin programs. If you keep potted plants on your patio or balcony, use the polystyrene to fill the bottom half of your pots before adding the soil and plants. Just break it up into smaller pieces beforehand. The benefits are threefold: your pot will be light enough to be moved easily, the polystyrene will help retain the moisture for your plants so you won’t have to water as often, and you won’t need to use as much soil. I don’t recommend this for plant you will be eating, like herbs or edible flowers.
Another really neat way to reuse the solid Styrofoam packaging including trays and appliance or electronic packing is to disguise the stuff and what better way than in the under the guise of a plant. Dried topiary is easy to make and even easier to maintain. All you do is cut pieces of the Styrofoam into a shape you like, glue on some dried moss, and then stick it all into a recycled container (clever!!) and you’re done! Make a few to use it all up and pass ‘em around. They’re great for home and office and don’t need any care! Dried moss is inexpensive and available at most craft or florist shops.
Hang on to the loose fill polystyrene or Styrofaom peanuts and use them when you sending off any parcels. If you don’t need them for mailing, use these ‘peanuts’ when potting up smaller indoor non-edible plants (see above).
An easy project for the kids is to cover a Styrofoam ball or heart (shaped from rigid Styrofoam packing) with dried lavender (or any dried herb, spice, etc.) using white craft glue (an adult can cut the heart-shape from Styrofoam used in packing computers and appliances). Sprinkle lavender buds on each side until completely covered and, when dry, attach a pretty ribbon.
Styrofoam trays from the grocery store can be used as craft material for kids to make Christmas ornaments. Cut out basic shapes (stars, deer, trees, houses, etc.) from a child’s colouring book and use as a pattern. Get the kids to decorate these with ribbons, candy wrap, or whatever else you have on hand and use as decorations.
Styrofoam trays also make great containers for homemade cookies, cakes for your local church or craft bazaar. Make sure you clean them well with soap and hot, boiling water before using and never use the ones that held chicken or meat.
Bubble wrap has therapeutic value, I know. Popping those bubbles can relieve tension and I like the popping sound it makes. You can, of course, reuse bubble wrap when mailing parcels or storing fragile items such as china. But it also has a couple of other uses. For example, it can be used to keep jewellery tangle free. Place chains and necklaces, earrings on a length of wrap and roll tightly. Tie a ribbon around it to secure.
Another way to recycle bubble wrap is to use it to protect fresh produce in your fridge’s veggie bins. To save your fruit and vegetables from bruises and bumps, cut a piece of wrap to fit the bottom of the bin drawer and insert before putting in the produce.
Egg cartons. Eggs come in a variety of cartons these days: clear, plastic, Styrofoam, and, of course, the traditional papier maché. These can be used in any number of ways. If you’re a sewer, the compartments are perfect for holding different coloured thread bobbins and you can glue a piece of plastic foam to the inside cover to hold pins and needles. You can also use the compartments of egg cartons to hold beading or other craft supplies.
Plastic or styrofoam egg cartons make quick and easy painting palettes for young artists. These can be rinsed out when the artist is done and reused again and again.
An egg carton makes a great place to store extra golf balls. It makes it easy to sort by brand and condition and they are stackable so they can be stored neatly. You can also store any small pieces of jewellery, rings, earrings, chains, cuff links, etc in the compartments. For a unique way to store pierced earrings, line the top with foam, cover with fabric, and poke earrings through the foam. It also works for small Christmas ornaments.
If you like to garden or plant flowers in the spring time then egg cartons will come in handy. Clear, plastic egg cartons make it easy for you to create a small ‘greenhouse’ for your plants and you will be able to see right away if the seedlings have sprouted. On the other hand, the papier maché ones can go straight into the garden.
Recycle those pesky elastic bands that hold your onions and broccoli together in more creative ways. Stretch a band (or two if you only have skinny ones) around each end of a hanger to keep sleeveless vests and sundresses from slipping off their hangers. bringing a potluck dish over to a friend’s, use a couple of wider elastic bands to keep the container lids from slipping off. Use them to hold odd bits paper together. And, of course, you can always use one or two to hold up your pony tail!
Since pantyhose is made from plastic, use your torn panty-hose to stuff cloth dolls, bears, etc. Just wash and dry, then cut up into small pieces and use as stuffing for the stuffed toys. They’re also great for cutting up into strips to tie up your growing tomato plants to stakes in the garden.
Turn your plastic takeout cutlery into plant and flower markers for your garden seedlings. Just write the plant on the handle with an indelible felt pen and stick into the pot.