Don't Throw It Away!

As they say, one person's trash is another's treasure. Perhaps whoever said that didn't mean it in the most literal sense, but the recycling-savvy among us know that just because something's been cast off by one user doesn't mean it's at the end of its useful life. Even those of us striving consciously to reduce consumption and waste are sometimes left with detritus that seems best destined for the dump. But, with a little ingenuity, your trash can become a trove of useful, workaday items, and your conscience, not to mention the landfills, can remain clear.

Here are five quick, creative reuses to get you started.

  • Bicycle innertubes = bungee cords. Eventually, there comes a point when your innertube just won’t hold another patch. But, as any bike messenger could tell you, the tube itself makes an ideal cord for tying things down anywhere you might have otherwise used a bungee — short of diving off a bridge, of course.
  • Toilet bowl or sink = planters. Getting your toilet replaced? Find a discarded washbasin on the sidewalk? For a unique planter, fill with potting soil and shallow rooting plants and find a place for it in the garden.
  • Coffee cans = bread pans. Though I would not encourage you to buy your coffee in cans in the first place, if you have, you’re probably wondering what to do with them all. One classic use is baking tins for breads and cake. I find that dense German-style or fruit breads work best, since they are less prone to burning on the bottom.
  • Nylon stockings = cheesecloth. The uses for old pantyhose are myriad, from scratch-free scouring pads to shoeshine buffers. One great use for (clean) stockings is as a cheesecloth substitute. Cut the toe off and use as a bouquet garni, strain juices from berries or whey from farmer’s cheese, even filter paint.
  • Plastic bags = plastic bags. Even for those of us who carry our own grocery bags, it’s all too easy to accumulate a drawer full of plastic — bread bags, produce bags, bulk bin bags. The dubious upside to this accumulation is never having to buy sandwich, storage, or freezer bags again. Also makes good packing material and emergency rain gear.

Almost everything can be repurposed — all it takes is a little creativity, and perhaps some mad glue gun skills. Tell us, what are some of your favorite ways to re-imagine items otherwise destined for the dumpster?

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