Clever Ways To Reuse Un-Recyclable Packaging/Products

December 5, 2019

The EPA estimates the United States generated approximately 267.8 million tons of trash in 2017, meaning each person tossed about 4.51lbs of trash per day. Back in 1990, that number was estimated to be was around 208 million tons, and at that rate, the future looks pretty bleak. But before we all go Greta Thunberg and scream into the void until our lungs give out, we need to take a step back and think about how we can make easy changes to our lives that can help break the cycle of buying using single-use products and items that come in non-recyclable packaging that ends up right in the trash within five seconds of buying said product. 

Recycling is ideal, of course, but before we try to toss something into that blue bin and hope it gets a new lease on life someday, we should first be trying to reuse it. It takes energy and resources to recycling items, but you can give them a new lease on life in your very own home for free. 

Plastic Bags

If you must get a plastic shopping bag for whatever reason, there are a ton of ways to reuse them around the house. 

  • Have on deck for future shopping trips. There’s no reason the same plastic bag can’t be used again and again and again until it finally breaks. 
  • Protect your wipers and mirrors during the freezing winter months by putting the bags over them. 
  • You can keep your precious plant babies alive when you leave town by placing the bag around the entire plant to trap moisture. 
  • Use for packing materials when moving by wrapping items to protect them or by layering them in between things like fine china. 

If you don’t find any of these options viable to you, you can always donate to local businesses who need bags like thrift stores, libraries, or animal shelters

Used Tea Bags

Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world. If you drink at least two cups a day, that could mean 

  • Have a spa night and relieve puffy eyes by chilling the bags in the refrigerator then placing one over each eye or add to a hot bath for some aromatherapy. 
  • Place in your garden with the acidic tannins of caffeinated tea and rejuvenate plants.  Break open used tea bags and sprinkle the contents over the soil below the plant.

Egg Cartons

Egg cartons are actually pretty useful to have around, especially if you have small children or are in an office setting that needs some organization, stat. 

  • Get organized! Paperclips, arts and crafts, jewelry, beads, tools like nuts and bolts, and any other tiny objects that get lost easily and clutter up drawers can be placed inside. 
  • Start seedlings by adding soil to each pocket and planting seeds of your choice. If the carton is made with wood pulp, you can plant the whole egg carton once the seedlings have sprouted. 
  • Make a palette for paints by using each hole for a different color. 
  • Use as packing materials by lining the bottom of a box with egg cartons then add to the top before sealing.

And if none of those work for you, there are plenty of local farmers who would love some free egg cartons. 

Old Clothes

Some old clothes can’t be donated, obviously. While it’s the ideal end of the life cycle for apparel, if it’s ripped up or overly-worn, many consignment and thrift stores can’t resell it. 

  • Cut the clothes into strips, as thick or thin as you want, and use as cleaning rags. 
  • Replace paper towels with small strips of old clothes and kill two birds with one stone by eliminating a ton of potential waste. 
  • If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you can upcycle the old jeans into bags, stuffed animals, etc. 

While many stores may not take your old clothes, you can call local animal shelters and see if they need can possibly use them. 

Glass Jars

While glass is often recyclable, in the US alone, over 11.6 million tons of glass is dumped each year, and only 28% of it is recovered for recycling. Honestly, it just seems silly to toss something that can so easily be used in the house. 

  • Organize! You can use jars for spice and dry goods in the kitchen. Much like the egg carton, you can use jars to store small items like nuts and bolts, arts and crafts, etc. 
  • Use for drinks! Whether the office needs more reusable glassware or the home, many glass jars double just fine as drinking glasses. You can even purchase new lids specifically made for turning glass jars into on-the-go beverage cups. 
  • There are lids with pumps made specifically for mason jars so you can head to your local refill stations and stock up on detergent, cleaners, bathroom products, and other common items needed both at home and at the office. 

Sometimes it just takes looking at an item with a fresh eye to come up with a new, clever idea to reuse it. Buying brand new storage containers, new washcloths, new everything gets expensive quickly. Save some money, help save the planet, and keep your home and workspace environmentally-friendly. 

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