What You Didn’t Know About Up-Cycling

Though almost a quarter of Americans don’t recycle any materials, almost everyone knows what recycling encompasses. At the very least, it entails separating cardboard, glass, aluminum, and some plastics from everyday garbage to avoid them from wasting away in a landfill. The recycled materials that pass all standards during the sorting and processing chain of events will then be sold to manufacturers to start their lifecycle over again. In the long run, recycling bears a positive effect on energy consumption, preservation of natural resources, climate problems, and the economy. However, many people feel that recycling it too inconvenient, and therefore these potentially useful materials become wasted resources.

There is another method for material re-use called up-cycling, which consumers can directly benefit from. Up-cycling entails taking the garbage/recyclable product and creatively transforming it into something more valuable or useful. It’s a concept that has been taking off in recent years and some are even selling their creations on websites like Etsy or Pinterest. Up-cycling eliminates the entire recycling process that can accumulate to costly measures, along with the possibility of the resource ending up in a dead-end landfill. If done sustainably, up-cycling could be one of the most environmentally beneficial sources of by-product re-use.

There are so many uses for products that would normally be tossed in the bin, so here are some you probably never thought about!

Toilet paper roll: If you’ve ever used wrapping paper before (which most people have), you probably use a small piece of tape to keep it from unrolling while it’s away in storage. Instead, save your toilet paper rolls! Using scissors, make a cut all the way through the roll lengthwise. The roll will still hold its’ shape. You can then wrap the toilet paper roll around the middle of the wrapping paper roll to keep it from unraveling. Now you don’t have to use tape which rips the wrapping paper!

Toilet paper roll recycled as a seedling planters

Wires can be a messy look whether they’re behind your home phone, your TV set, or computer at your desk. You can use a toilet paper roll to keep them a bit more organized. Again, cut the roll all the way through lengthwise. Gather the wires together and wrap the roll around them. The toilet paper roll will hold its shape, and hold the wires together, getting rid of the messy wire look. You can even paint the roll whatever color you wish to blend in with its’ setting.

If you’ve ever had trouble starting a fire in the fireplace or an outdoor fire pit, a toilet paper roll could come in handy! All you need is the roll, lint from your dryer and some wax paper. Just stuff the toilet paper roll with the dryer-lint and wrap it in the wax paper like a piece of candy. Then, wedge it under your firewood, light it, and you have a homemade fire starter.

Aluminum cans: There are endless possibilities with the re-use of cans. They can be put to use for storage of small items, but they are especially useful for organizing things like utensils. To transform the cans into their new purpose, wash them thoroughly and remove the label. You can then get creative! Paint them any color you wish, label them “spoons”, “knives”, “forks”, or whatever it is you wish to use them for. For this you can use a stencil or chalkboard paint for a look that will make guests think you bought them in the store!

This suggestion is a bit more crafty, but a great addition to inside your home or even in the backyard. You can easily transform your cans into beautiful lanterns with only some paint and a hammer and nail (or drill for those who own one). Just clean the cans thoroughly, remove the label, paint it whichever color you desire, and use the hammer and nail to make holes into a pattern of your choosing. You can create flowers, a striped pattern, or even random holes all around the can. You can add little handles to these lanterns and hang them around your backyard or leave them as they are and use them on table tops or to light an outdoor pathway. Place a candle or source of light inside the can to complete your artwork!

Toilet paper rolls and aluminum cans are just two examples of the endless by-products that can be re-used in an either practical or artistic way. Because up-cycling is becoming a popular concept there are plenty of websites where you can find creative ways to put almost anything to better use. Ideas range from turning an old globe into a fruit bowl to making empty alcohol bottles into soap holders. So before you throw out those paper bags from the super market, those old books you never read, or even that bulky desk no one ever sits at, look up some ways you can make them into something more valuable. Help yourself and help the Earth.

Always ensure that all sharp edges are carefully removed prior to use.

Co, Emily. “221 Upcycling Ideas That Will Blow Your Mind.” POPSUGAR Smart Living. N.p., 05 Nov. 2016. Web. 20 May 2017.


  1. Plastic yoghurt containers make great storage for your small bits and pieces in a drawer or cupboard, or even in the shed or garage.

  2. We turn our large tomato sauce bottles (2 litres) into scoops for the chicken feed. As seen here.

    You can use it for anything you need to scoop in bulk. A bag of Diatomaceous Earth is another place we use ours, or a bag of Gypsum.

    We also made a poop scooper to clean out the nesting boxes, out of a 3 litre milk bottle. They also came in handy as a children’s spade, to dig in the sand pit.

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