Think Green

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Transform trash into new and useful items

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generate around 4.6 pounds of trash per person, per day. Sixty-five percent of that trash comes from personal residences, and more than half of that trash ends up buried in landfills.

Handling trash is a mammoth task, and one of the easiest ways to tackle such a task is to reduce the amount of garbage we produce. Turning some trash into useful items is one way to effectively manage waste, and many items that typically find their way into landfills can be turned into new tools.

Glass bottles and jars

Even though glass items are regularly recycled, it's possible to repurpose glass containers around the house. Empty wine bottles and jars can make lovely candleholders. Pair glass items with a soy candle and cast delicate light on surroundings without using any other resources.

Scores of craft projects can be made from jars. Jars with lids can be repurposed into storage containers for home improvement and craft supplies. Such jars also can be used to store other foods.


In an era of ebooks and digital news, more and more books are finding their way into landfills. But books can be turned into decorative items. Gluing or attaching books together makes for an interesting storage shelf that can hold newer books or other items. Stacked and secured books can be transformed into a conversation piece, such as a side or coffee table. Hollow out a niche inside of the pages of a book to use as a treasure chest or to store jewelry you'd like to keep hidden.


Various items can be repurposed into jewelry after their initial use. Bracelets can be made from discarded electronic components or recycled paper. Even plastic bread clips can be gathered and strung together for an eclectic looking piece of jewelry.

Old clothes

Many people donate their old clothes to the needy, and such gestures help support charitable efforts that benefit the less fortunate. But old clothes also can be turned into may different items, even by those people with only minimal sewing skills.

Use cotton, linen or even polyester clothes to create tote bags or wine caddies. Turn discarded clothes into items for doll dress-up. Or, use fabric from clothes to make slipcovers for throw pillows. Small swatches of fabric can be sewn together for change purses or to hold mobile phones.

Plastic bottles

Trimming plastic bottles into different shapes creates possibilities for various storage containers. Turn an empty shampoo bottle into a device charging station that hangs from an outlet, keeping charging cords tidy. Or trim a plastic bottle to form a phone holder that can be attached to a bicycle. Empty milk containers can be turned into indoor terrariums or to start seedlings before spring planting.


Paper is another household item that need not find its way into landfills. Scraps of paper can be bound together to form note pads, and documents can be printed on the back of previously used pieces of paper to fuel conservation efforts.

Shredded paper can be used as filler for mailing packages or as decorative confetti inside of gift bags. It also can be used to stuff dolls and toys made from recycled fabric.

So many items are deemed trash and taken for granted. But before tossing items into the garbage, consider how they can be upcycled into useful new products.

Maryland Pennysaver