Repurposing Used and Old Items can Considerably Reduce Solid Wastes

Jan 22 2014

With today’s throwaway environment, it’s easier to buy a new item rather than work on an old or damaged one.  However, key statistics from the US Environmental Protection Agency show that each person throws 4.6 lbs. of trash on a daily basis. Sadly, even when around 75% of this waste is recyclable, only less than half (30%) are recycled. The good news is that over the past decade, the practice of recycling has increased considerably.

This may be brought about by the increased awareness of the need to reduce waste to help the environment. Everyone is encouraged to recycle or repurpose. This limits the amount of items finding their way to the landfill and increasing the demand for more new things that use limited natural resources. One can recycle the waste so that the materials can be processed and used to make new things. There are over 9,000 community curbside recycling programs all over the country, as well as over 3,000 community composting programs.

Now, the question is, what about repurposing? This is the act of finding new uses for certain items. As people become more creative in modifying items to fit new purposes, they also help reduce the environmental cost of producing new items.  As they say, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Add to this the benefits of decreasing in greenhouse gas emissions as well as solid wastes in landfills.

Breathing new life into old items

As they say, “One’s man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” So how can one get a head start with repurposing? Here are a few suggestions:

Think before you throw or earmark for recycling. Can you think of another use for the item without resorting to throwing it away or to having it recycled? You can be surprised by how many common household things can find their way in other areas of your house.

Browse the web. The internet is a great resource for repurposed items. There are plenty of websites that focus on creative purposing. You can make an idea uniquely yours by adding your own take on something you have seen.

Make a plan. Before you implement, put it in paper so that you can think through the dimensions of the finished product. You also get an idea of how the repurposed item will look like.

Prepare the materials. Make sure that the items you are repurposing are clean and ready for use. This is especially true for used items. Wash and dry metals and plastics thoroughly. For wood items, make sure that you have smoothened and sanded the wood. Get rid of dust, adhesive or paint, where applicable.

Have a “repurposing box”. This is where you keep items that you don’t throw away and hope to find use for. For instance, you can keep wallpaper, wooden items, clips and buttons in your box so that when your creative juices start, you have something you can immediately work with. You can also keep useful bits and scraps from previous projects.

Some Repurposing Suggestions

To get you started, here are some projects:

Old Pallets. Get shabby chic by piling old pallets one on top of the other and side by side so that you have a bench. Add a few comfy throw pillows and viola! You have seating that make for a great conversation piece.

Old doors. Sand down an old door, add legs and get a unique coffee table. Or, you can keep the old, rustic color and simply coat the door with a layer or two of polyurethane. You can also put a tempered glass sheet on the top. Or, you can convert an old door into a headboard. Add items of interest such as some crown molding or a fresh coat of paint.

Old crates into shelves. Clean and paint old crates and nail them to the wall as shelves.

Glass jars. This has so many opportunities for repurposing. You can use glass jars as vases (add paint and trimmings), storage for pencils and other small items, oil lamps, snow globes or terrariums.

Photo frames. Make a unique tray by getting an oval picture frame, adding some sturdy backing, and handles on two sides. You can also add some rows of ribbons or a mesh backing to a rectangular picture frame to hold pieces of jewelry and hair accessories. For a great reminder board, add cork backing or add chalkboard paint on the backing for a corkboard or a framed chalkboard.