Upcycle waste | upcycleDZINE
Photo © Joel Crump

Recycling boxes and bins have made sorting our kitchen, household, and garden waste easier than ever, but for other refuse like clothing, it’s still not as simple. Here you’ll find new and interesting eco-friendly ways you can start sorting rubbish and upcycling your waste:

There are hundreds of alternative uses for your old items, so instead of putting it out for rubbish collection to taking it to the recycling center, why not consider something else…

Ways to recycle and cardboard upcycling ideas

Basic waste sorting is something we’re all familiar with. The cardboard, tin cans and glass jars just automatically go into their respective bins now, but have you ever thought about being a bit crafty and reusing them around the house? We’ve all seen how you can reuse glass jars for homemade sauces or as vases, but what about cardboard? 

Cardboard waste | upcycleDZINE
Photo © Claudio Schwarz Purzlbaum

It’s one of the most common pieces of recycling we have around the house from deliveries, food packaging, and more. Instead of flattening it and popping it in the cardboard recycling bin for a future of baling, shredding, and re-use, it’s time to think outside the box (sorry).

Ideas for upcycling cardboard boxes:

Honestly, cardboard is one of the most versatile and sturdy materials out there – you’d be surprised at how many products use it. So, give it a go, and give your cardboard new life.

BoxHat: upcycled cardboard lampshade by Gilbert de Rooij – upcycleDZINE
Photos © Gilbert de Rooij

Top tip: If you’re recycling your cardboard, you have to remove any packaging materials like bubble wrap first. You don’t have to remove the tape though, although it will save time later on in the process if you do.

Textile recycling and upcycling clothes

Clothes recycling is one of the trickier materials to get rid of. There’s no home collection, you have to take items to the charity shop, or the collection bin at the supermarket, or the recycling centre. Some retailers take in unwanted garments in exchange for vouchers, like H&M Clothing Recycling, but there’s more effort required, so more often than not, clothes go in the rubbish bin. In fact, up to 60% of the rubbish that ends up in the average household bin could be recycled. 

Recycling clothes | upcycleDZINE
Photo © Utopia by Cho

We really should change that though, so here’s a top tip: Next time you have some unwanted clothes, put them in your shopping bag or car straight away. Then, when you go to a supermarket, just pop them in the collection box – it’s a minimal effort from you and you’re not going out of your way, but your actions will benefit everyone. 

Any decent and wearable clothes you donate will be sent out to charity shops or abroad for reuse, and those which aren’t suitable can be reused too. Rags and unsuitable items get picked up by textile recycling companies who use recycled fabric to produce microfiber cloths. So, everything gets reused, but have you thought about reusing and upcycling clothes yourself?

Vlisco Recycled: fabric leftovers interior pieces by Simone Post | upcycleDZINE
Photos © Simone Post

Research suggests that repairing and reusing clothes it’s a growing trend in those aged 25-34. They’re fixing and upcycling unsuitable items themselves, which is great for the environment. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Turn those old ripped jeans into a bag or a skirt.
  • Revamp your ripped shirt or blouse into a headband or scarf.
  • Got some bleach on your tee? Get some tie-dye on that bad boy.
  • Cut off the ripped bottom of your chinos and make yourself some snazzy shorts.

There really are hundreds of upcycled items you can make, just think of your old clothes as fabric waiting to be used.

What to do with garden waste

No matter if you’ve acres of space, or a baby backyard, there’s always some maintenance to be done. Whether you’re sweeping leaves, cutting grass, or pruning plants, ‘how to get rid of garden waste’ is the ever-present question. 

Gardening | upcycleDZINE
Photo © Diane Helentiaris

Most of us would put the remnants in the garden waste collection bin, or take it down to the green waste section of the recycling center. At least then you can be certain it’ll be turned into green waste compost and soil improver. Other options include burning it (a bit dangerous) and reusing it yourself in some way. 

Top tip: If you’re burning garden waste, make sure it’s dry waste only – no greens.

Garden waste | upcycleDZINE
Photo © Bernard Hermant

Reusing your garden waste is fairly easy. The first thing we recommend you do is to create your own compost area. Any crass clippings, dying annuals, banana skins – throw it all in the compost heap and watch it decompose down into nutritious plant fertilizer. Just keep turning it and being patient – the composting of waste does take time. That’s why you should probably still use your green waste collection service alongside, for branches and thicker, less compostable materials. Alternatively, you could use any branches and smaller cuttings for ornamental decorations, centerpieces or wreaths. 

There are literally hundreds of ways you can start sorting waste thoroughly and upcycling throwaway things, so think before you bin and make the most of what you have.

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