10 Uses for Junk Mail
Repurposing Old Sheets
Here is my tip on a different kind of recycling. My husband works road cosntruction in the summers, so his clothes go through a rotation. Good clothes, work in the garage clothes and then on to their final resting place - tar clothes. I never have regretted spending money on clothes for him because he will literally wear them into shreds. There were many summer mornings, however, when I would find the sleeves from a flannel shirt (that the arms had shrunk on) laying on the floor, or a set of pant legs cut to make shorts. I didn't want to throw them away, and already had far too many dust rags out of his tar socks (another story all together!). I saved them for two summers, occassionally using the jeans to patch others, etc.. One day I began cutting them into little squares to make a quilt for him. I bought some remnants at a local fabric store to add color to the quilt. I used an old sheet for thickness, and bought a couple of yards of new flannel for the back. For under $15 I have a wonderfull quilt that my husband loves, and I saved yards of good material from ending up in the dumpster.
To effectively recycle is not so much an environmental issue but really an economic issue.
You can't recycle when it costs more to use the existing product than to use the raw material. You can try, but the economics will probably drive you out of business. The first thing you can do in effective recycling is educate yourself about what happens with recyclables in your LOCAL area. Shipping recyclables is expensive so if there isn't a local program to reuse the product, you are going to add more cost to the system and pollution in shipping the "recyclable".
Where I live in Salt Lake City, I can PAY an additional fee for the city to recycle my plastic, cardboard, and paper which they pick up weekly with the other garbage. Most of this recycling actually goes to the land fill anyway. The market for recycled paper and plastic on the local level is minute at best, only one of the three newspapers even uses recycled paper and then, only in 30% dilution to new pulp. The rest is too expensive to ship anywhere for the recycling to be cost effective. So it goes to the land fill.
I would end up paying extra for the service they already provide, but add more cost and pollution because of the method of recycling.
Buy appropriate recycled products. This stimulates the economy for recycling the materials so you can recycle in the first place. However, you should again understand the recycling process to determine if the recycled impacts are less than the landfill and cost of raw materials. Many papers, particularly colored papers have to be soaked in toxic bleaches and dioxins before they are useful in the market again. What are the costs and impacts of disposing those? Sometimes it's better not to recycle.
One sign of true recycling usually include YOU taking the recyclable to the BUYER. YOU get some monetary value for what is recycled. If you have to pay a "recycling fee", you are probably not recycling but paying someone else's salary for a scam and a "feel good" moment.
Grocery stores have started rebating you a nickel in my neighborhood when you reuse grocery sacks. That's recycling. I bring a product and am monetarily rewarded. They save money in buying fewer bags, bags don't go to the land fill, we've recycled. Now, you can't just collect grocery bags and turn them in for a nickel a piece. You actually have to shop there and reuse the bags for the nickel, but it's something to consider.
Aluminum cans are well known as good recycling resources. Interestingly, Japan buys it's steel largely from US scrap and then resells us another car. Sometimes "new" may be recycled.
There is also charitable recycling. This is a little different, because you usually don't get a direct monetary reward. Instead, you may donate to a charity so others can re use something again. These donations may be tax deductible, but you need a receipt these days. You can also frequent these "Used stores". I am particularly fond of the Used CD stores, Used books, and used software stores in my area.
Then there is usurious recycling. Pawn Shops. I have bought lots of stereo equipment and tools at pawn shops. To succeed in this sort of recycling, you need to have some depth of understanding of the products you are buying or you may end up with junk. But it can be a good way to inexpensively reuse some one else's products.
It really makes me mad when I go to buy a simple part for something and a whole new product is cheaper than the part. One simple example is refill rolls for transparent tape. At my Wal-Mart store it costs more to buy refill rolls than it does to buy a package of all new rolls. What do you do with all the dispensers? We should put some pressure on the manufacturers to promote a little recycling of their own. Seems they'd rather sell you a whole new something than utilizing the reduce, reuse, recycle philosophy - more money in their pockets that way. I feel the manufacturers create more waste than the consumers sometimes. Couldn't the manufacturers make a huge decrease in our landfills by being recycle savvy?
Re-use plastic milk jugs to hold crayons, legos, clothes pins and other small items. Cut an opening in the side opposite the handle. You can also re-use baby wipes containers to store small items and they stack easily, saving space as well.
Here are a couple of easy ideas:
My best recycling experience is as follows. I buy sheets for our beds at garage sales. I try not to spend more than $2-$4 for a complete queen size set. I use them till they are very worn and thin. Then I use the fitted bottom sheet instead of a wheelbarrow to haul leaves, grass, whatever from the yard to the compost pile. Then before it is full of holes I tear it in strips to use to stake up our tomatoes!! Now those are well used sheets! (The top sheet gets torn into strips without being used to haul stuff.)
I think this is a great topic to explore. There are so many ways to recycle. At our house we also REUSE things over and over which is another great way to save resources and money.
We reuse our 1/2 gallon milk cartons (cut in half lengthwise) as seedling planters for starting our garden each year. We also compost all our organic kitchen waste and use a batch composter for garden & yard waste and then use the compost on our veggies and flowers! There are many great websites for composting and reuses for gardeners on the web. Bet this could be a subject entirely on its own. Check out "Rotweb" and the Organic Gardening magazine web sites. Both are great with many links.
We cool the water used to cook pasta and then water our house plants with it. Also, we collect and use rainwater for outdoor watering. Locally, our municipality recycles just about everything from newspapers to all plastics and even engine oils. We use some of our newspaper for mulch in the garden since the inks are made from soybeans and the whole thing biodegrades.
Sponges can be washed over and over in the dishwasher and "cooked" in the microwave for a few minutes to keep them germ free and usable so they don't need to be tossed out so often.
One thing I have always tried to recycle is old magazines. I tear the address label off the cover and take them to hospitals, nursing homes, or even doctor's offices (to avoid the problem of having to read about the recent Cuban missile crisis in the doctor's "current" magazines). It seems a shame to spend the amount of money a subscription costs and just throw them away...
If you have children to occupy, or a creative urge that cooking dinner won't cure, then you need some supplies. All of them should be recycled materials. Save the usual - cardboard tubes, empty cans, variety of cardboards, leftover fabric, shoeboxes, used-but-not-wrecked wrapping papers. To actually put these to work, however, here is a good starter shopping list: Paints of all kind, polyurathane (water based), scotch tape, hot glue, sandpapers, scissors.
MINI GOLF SET: My son LOVED this at age four: Empty cans turned on their sides, with braces made of cardboard to stabilize, and numbered flags to show the order of play, place them around the house on the floor. A cardboard tube, sliced lengthwise and rolled tighter to make a stick, with an empty yogurt tub attached (with the lid as the striking surface), the child will putt a ping-pong ball to each can in proper order, and count the strokes. I have even used a ball of aluminum foil when the ball went behind the entertainment center. Very fun and funny!
NOSE CANS: Use empty cans to create a 'family' of useful cans to hold pencils, pennies, reciepts, whatever! Tape a carboard "nose" to a can, and paper mache five layers of tan toilet paper (Scott) all around. If you saturate a small wad of the toilet paper with paper mache, you can make a "clay" that you can mold into lips or cheeks (funny!), and let dry thoroughly. Then paint a face on the can with watercolors, or applique cut-outs to it. Glue hair on, etc. Watercolors will run if painted over with water-based polyurathane, so use something else (varnish?). This project is a big hit with girls, who love crafty projects and making people. The project also is stretched over several days, which teaches patience and helps cure "immediate gratification" in children, an unfortunate development which should be gently removed from their character.
BOXES: Cover flimsy useless boxes with paper mache to strengthen them greatly. Top them off with a good layer of tissue paper (colored or white, who cares?), and give a coat of polyurathane. A nice one is pretty enough to leave out, others organize your bills, taxes, coupons, makeup, etc. These boxes are quite sturdy, almost like wood. Not like boxes merely covered with contact paper ($). They take longer, and have to dry, etc. but I like them for storing magazines I keep.
PAPER MACHE PASTE: Use a wire whisk and a heavy saucepan. Pre-whisk 1/4 cup SUGAR, 1/4 cup FLOUR, 1/2 teaspoon ALUM (spice section of store) in the pan. Then add 1 cup WATER, and over medium heat, using the whisk, stir constantly to boiling. When transluscent, thick, and smooth, whisk in 3/4 cups WATER and add a preservative. PRESERVATIVES: 1/4 teaspoon oil of wintergreen, 1/2 teaspoon Bactine or Listerine, 1/2 teaspoon real lemon extract. Don't eat this paste. Pour into a pint jar and cool. This can be kept at room temperature for several months. Shake well before using, add water if too thick. What a cinch. Use a stiff brush to use. A soft camelhair-type watercolor brush just doesn't cut it. You need to press out air bubbles from the paper you apply.
CANDLES: I made candles in my mother's kitchen when I was a girl. She let me because I showed I could be responsible. Since I was a kid, I had no money, so I used milk cartons, empty cans with straight sides, and poured candles into glasses, etc. for gifts. The most important thing is choosing the right size wick. Too small, and the candle will burn a little pool in the middle and put itself out. Too large, and the candle will send up black soot and/or drip real bad. Get a candle book from the library. If you like candle-light, this is a gratifying hobby. Have you priced candles?? Hot wax, when cooled to the point that a skin forms over the surface, will whip up like egg whites, and can be applied to a candle like frosting. It covers up marred candles whose surfaces aren't nice, and since it looks like foam or snow, is good for beer-mug candles or Christmas candles (gifts!). Use the cheapest hand egg beater in the thrift store. I have also used blown egg-shells for candles (tricky because you need to try and get the membrane out somehow). Open a hole as big as a dime, and rinse them really well! When the candle has developed a skin at the opening, insert a birthday candle in the exact middle. Put in fridge, and the next day peel the shell off. Pretty for Easter, and it uses hardly any wax. Anyway, this category uses cans, cartons, and stuff you'd throw away, including old wax.
WALL DECORATION: Stretch drapery material remnants over large picture frames and hang up as modern art. Many many drapery materials look like modern art, with splashes and zigzags and painterly appearances - select your fabric with that in mind. Match your furniture's colors. This works SO well in contemporary settings. You need a staple gun, and should know the steps of stretching - there's a right way and a wrong way. Any painter can teach you this, as stretching is a part of preparing canvases. It should be tight as a drum, with very neat corners. Use a bunch of small picture frames to create a montage on the wall. This idea is very good for bedrooms and livingrooms, and large pieces can cover a lot of sins on the wall. CHEAP! : )
Dorothee W. in Madison, WI
Our city has the most wonderful recycling set-up. My favorite part is what's called the 'reuse center'. It's a large warehouse where people/companies/stores bring unwanted but working (or close-to-working) things. It's a non-profit group tied to the city's recycling contractor. Prices are very low. It's mainly construction/building/house goods, but there's lots of other stuff as well. We've bought kitchen cabinets, toilets, wallboard, wood trim, dishes, bicycles, knick-nacks, flower pots, windows, chairs, tables, hoses, mirrors, pesticide, walkman, doors, door knobs, insulation, and on and on and on. To encourage reuse because dumping is so toxic to the environment, all paint is free. The city encourages (requires?) people and business doing remodeling/construction work to bring anything salvageable from 'gutting' and any leftovers from construction. People may not want to store that piece of drywall but I'm mighty happy to buy it! Building/construction materials are a big part of the waste stream and are tough to recycle - reuse is far better. Though this isn't really an idea for 'personal recycling' because you need community involvement, it's so wonderful I had to spread the word. Perhaps others could get their towns to 'donate' a building for swaps? Even a tarp tent at the dump/transfer station would be a start!
The EPA is including Ann Arbor in its upcoming report on how recycling can be cost-effective. Watch for it! (Brag, brag - we already recycle more than 50% of residential waste and we're going for 60% before 2000!)
What to do with the many CD's that online services bombard us with?? We created a lovely hanging mobile over our computer that catches the light beautifully!! The 'plain' side is very reflective, and the 'label' side is very colorful!! Turn them into art!!
I just saw your request for recycling ideas. In Craig, Colorado, Lu Ann Foty has come up with an excellent way to reuse crayons; she has recycled over 10,000 pounds to date!
Individuals or groups collect used crayons and mail them to Lu Ann. She pays 25 cents per pound and reimburses for shipping. The crayon peels are removed and turned into fire starters. The crayons are sorted by color groups, melted, and poured into molds. Of the crayons she has created, the trinket boxes are my favorites. These boxes can actually be written with, but I think they are too pretty for that. Bears, angels, hearts, dinosaurs, moons, and bunnies are just a few of her colorful designs. All product packaging is environmentally friendly and comes from recycled sources if possible.
Jennifer W. G.
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