Putting old things to new uses

Creative Recycling

by Lynn Bulmahn

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The slogan on one of my t-shirts says, "Rehash Your Trash!" In fact, that's exactly what the shirt manufacturer did. The t-shirt's fabric was made from recycled plastic soft drink bottles. The manufacturer took what was intended for the garbage and created something useful.

We may not spin cloth out of bottles, but how many times do we throw out things that could be put to further use? Not only will being "green" save an item from the landfill, but it will also save you money!

For instance, my aging plastic laundry hamper split and is no longer useful for carrying the wash. But it's perfect for recycling! It now holds soda pop cans in the garage.

All the closets in my current house have bi-fold doors, so I gave away the little over-the-door gadgets designed for hanging extra clothes. Now I could kick myself for getting rid of all of them. The other day, while watering plants on my patio, I realized the door to the air conditioner unit, located on the patio, would be a terrific place for a hanging basket. Had I kept a single over-the-door gadget, I could have hung a plant there.

I was able to snap up a bunch of industrial buckets at a garage sale. I got several for $1. Some are cracked and cannot hold liquid, but they're perfect for our container vegetable garden. The plants are thriving and don't know the difference.

Every Christmas, our church decorates with poinsettias. After the holiday, parishioners are asked to come get them. By then, the flowers are drooping. However, the plastic flower pots are full of good potting soil and granules of fertilizer. So I take the plants home, toss out the dying poinsettias, and start houseplant cuttings in the flower pots.

The church poinsettia pots also have decorative foil covers. I save some. Later, if I want to take someone a plant for a gift, I re-use the pretty wrappings.

Speaking of Christmas, our church secretary discovered that plastic disposable champagne glasses make fantastic candleholders for congregants to use during candlelight services or vigils. Thin taper candles fit perfectly when inserted into the hollow stem of the "glass."

To ensure no one puts down a lit candle, they remove the little discs that serve as the foot for the champagne flute. Although the church bought its champagne glasses/candleholders during a post-holiday sale, you could wash out discarded champagne glasses after a party.

Ever buy window cleaner or household liquids in spray bottles? Once the product is gone, you can reuse the spray bottle. It's cheaper to buy a refill jug of the product and keep filling up the original container. Such sprayers, when washed out, are also great for plant misters or for other products.

Of course, stores will happily sell you an empty spray bottle, but why buy one when all you have to do is use something you already have? Just remove the label and make sure the bottle is thoroughly cleaned so that the product doesn't linger unless you're using the sprayer for the same thing. For safety's sake, label the reused bottle, showing the current product.

One enterprising artist at a crafts fair used hot glue to fasten magnets to sea shells. It was a big hit! But, how many times do advertisers give you magnets? Simply remove the commercial message and then glue the flat magnets to all sorts of decorative items. If you lack sea shells, look for large, fancy buttons or old costume jewelry, such as earrings or pins.

Rather than throw out a worn-out quilted mattress pad, my grandmother simply folded it up several times, "tacked" the ends together with a needle and thread, and then sewed a cover for it. She used nice fabric that was leftover from another project. We didn't know her clever creation wasn't a "real" throw pillow until we were readying her things for the estate sale.

These are but a few examples. What items around your house, now destined for the trash, would save money if you used them possibly in a new or unusual way?

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