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5 top ways to turn your trash into treasure – upcycling ideas for your home and garden

Save your household rubbish from the bin with these easy upcycling tips and tricks


By Cleanipedia Team

recycled glass pots like potted plants

Whether you want to create an upcycled lamp from a glass jar, craft a new feature for your garden, or just make use of unrecyclable plastic, there’s a world of possibilities waiting for you in your kitchen rubbish. Here’s our favourite five:

1. Make an ecobrick from unrecyclable plastic

‘An ecowhatnow?’ we hear you ask. Ecobricks are basically plastic bottles packed with clean, unrecyclable plastic. Think plastic straws, cellophane, Styrofoam and other packaging waste. They’re then used to make all manner of things, from stools to shelters.

You can either donate your ecobricks to a local collection point, or have a go at building something yourself (search Pinterest and Instagram for ideas.) It can take quite a long time to fill a bottle as you need to pack it pretty tightly, so you might want to group together with friends, family or the local community to get enough bricks to build something this millennium.

Ecobricks made with 600ml bottles should weigh at least 200g according to Ecobricks.org. Ones made from 1,500ml bottles should weigh at least 500g. As most projects will use bottles lying on their side, start off with a coloured piece of plastic pushed into the base if you want your finished creation to be good and colourful.

How concerned are you about disinfecting while cleaning?

Not sure which plastics are unrecyclable? Check out our guide to recycling plastic.

2. Repurpose toilet rolls as home for seedlings

Toilet roll tubes make perfect mini plant pots. Place them on a reusable shallow tray and fill with compost. Add a seed to each one and you’re good to go. The beauty of these pots is they’re biodegradable. When your seedling is ready to plant out, you can either peel off the cardboard tube, or just plant it out still in the tube. As long as you water it well, the cardboard should break down as the roots grow.

3. Reuse a soft fruit carton as a plant stand

That reusable tray we mentioned above? The trays that strawberries and raspberries come in are ideal. Not keen on the colour? Decorate it with a suitable primer and gloss paint.

4. Upcycle glass jars

There are so many things you can do with an old jar before it makes its way into your recycling bin. You could put some battery-powered fairy lights in to make a pretty upcycled lamp (ideal for a BBQ that stretches into the evening). Or glue an old plastic toy to the lid and spray paint it to create a quirky storage jar. Or why not fill three glass jars with cactus compost and add succulents for an Instagram-worthy shelf display?

Struggling to get the sticky label off your jar? Try soaking it overnight in soapy water. If that doesn’t work, dab the label with nail varnish remover. Leave it for a few minutes and then use a nail brush or your fingernail to pick the paper off. If you’re reusing the glass jar for food, it’s a good idea to sterilise it first. The easiest method is to sterilise jars in the oven. Place the washed, wet jars and lids on a baking tray and put them in a preheated hot oven (140°C) for ten minutes. Remove any rubber seals first and boil them, as the oven could damage the seal.

5. Recycle a juice carton by turning it into a birdfeeder

There are plenty of upcycled garden ideas out there, but this one is ideal for everyone from beginners to seasoned craft pros. Tetrapaks aren’t the easiest things to recycle so not all local authorities will take them. Once you’ve enjoyed your morning juice, give the birds a treat with a homemade bird feeder.

First off, open the carton up so you can give it a good clean. Birds like seeds, not mould. Then use a craft knife to cut a large hole in opposite sides of the carton. (Don’t cut the holes too close to the bottom of the carton, or you’ll need to refill your feeder hourly.)

Make a small hole under each opening and poke a large twig all the way through to give the birds somewhere to stand. Then just add some string to the top of the carton, glue it closed, and voila, you’re good to go. Of course, you can paint it with acrylic paint if you want, but the birds really won’t mind if you don’t.

Originally published