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Reusing Instead of Recycling

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Posted on : 9:45 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

Wow I've got three posts I'm in the middle of but I had a great long day with friends I am tired.  One thing that is happening right now is that it's getting harder to recycle.  I used to assume that Recycling Bin -> Factory -> New Bottle.  I thought this was some kind of city-run community service, bottles collected and crushed into viable materials to be collected by The Man.  What really happens is that someone has to buy them and it's a market like everything else - what a crushing reality check, lol.  I just read on Lisa's blog that this market has fallen out.  We're even feeling it on our super recycling-friendly island, where a few communities aren't taking glass bottles.  It may be why our recycling pile is so big right now.


So what to do, besides the obvious of avoiding packaging?  Reduce - Reuse - and then Recycle. Recycling is supposed to be the last resort.

If you do a lot of craft projects, many materials can be put to good use.  We have a crazy system here on the island where you get multiple newspapers on your doorstep for free unless you put up a sign that says, "No Newspapers!"  First of all, stop getting newspapers.  If you do have some, use them for paper mache'.  Any paper can be used to make homemade paper with a blender and screen (I'll post some instructions), and if possible use digital documents as much as possible.  We don't own a printer because we try to use email and just make PDF's.  We love to make collages so any magazines get cut up first for good pictures for collages or to do sketches of (and put into a file of pictures) and the scraps can be used to make new paper.  That said, we don't subscribe to any magazines - just steal them from other people.

Glass bottles are especially valuable for reuse, and I think I've mentioned before that I use them to store any kind of herbal concoction because you simply can't put that stuff in plastic.  They are also great for storage for tiny objects like buttons and nails, pencils, etc.  We use canning jars for drinking cups too.

Plastic bottles and containers are much trickier.  They can be repurposed into funnels, bottle rockets, and children's musical instruments but I think all this items are still destined to end up thrown away.  Probably a bird feeder or storage of liquids like paints would be better but plastic in general is bad news.  It seems to wear out to be unusable but never enough to actually decompose, eh?

Cardboard is a valuable material.  We use it for everything and it doesn't seem to make it into recycling.  It is a great painting surface, it can be constructed into 3D objects, it can be used to make frames for paper mache', and boxes are always great for storage.  I remember as a kid getting a refrigerator box.  The box was used as a playhouse until it eventually didn't stand up anymore, so we cut it down into huge rectangular sheets.  My dad took apart our bunk beds and flipped them upside down so that we had a huge space underneath them.  Then we put the cardboard up along side and cut out a door to make a more permanent house.  Months later (maybe when I was 18, lol) this got old and it was cut into smaller pieces to make paintings and cardboard foil-covered swords.  Finally I think in tiny chunks it must have been recycled but it got so much use in between.  Cardboard in the end can still be used to make homemade paper. 

I would love to see some creative, permanent suggestions for recycling plastic bottles - that's one I still can't figure out.

Comments (3)

Yup, I feel strongly, more and more, about reusing and reducing. I was also naive about the whole recycling system.

Plastic bottles! argh! My aim is to stop buying ANY. They are the bain of my life right now, because we can't drink the tap water. But we will have a filtering system at the new house.

Anyway... one use for said bottles is as an irrigation system, like this.
How about craft projects, like lamp shades?

Hey, you did a way better post on this than I did! Good suggestions. I just saw the news clip and wanted to make people aware of it real quick. I hope to get to a post with ideas on this, too.

Great article with practical ideas!

I use up so much newspaper in my paper mache projects that I sometimes go to the little store down the street and grab one of the free papers. But I suggest to anyone starting out that you use the paper strips and paste technique instead of making the paper mush, because it's easier to handle, you don't have to worry so much about mold, and you can get finer details.

In fact, the piggy bank I made even uses up an old salt container - it's a really fun way to use up "trash" and end up with something that's actually useful.