Money & Career

11 items you usually trash, but can easily reuse

My son pulls all kinds of things out of the trash and turns them into toys — empty boxes, plastic containers and even old magazines. When you’re four years old, you can make a treasure out of just about anything.

wild flowers in a glass jar vase

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My son pulls all kinds of things out of the trash and turns them into toys — empty boxes, plastic containers and even old magazines. When you’re four years old, you can make a treasure out of just about anything. Most of us lose the knack for doing this as adults, which is unfortunate because there are so many things we toss away that could easily be reused or repurposed. Not only is doing so better for the environment, but it also helps to save us money. It’s easy to turn these 11 pieces of trash into something useful.

1. Food scraps
If you have a garden, consider getting a composter. It’s an excellent way to transform your table scraps into rich compost for you garden. Make sure you don’t put any animal products in the composter though. Instead, save bones and scraps to make stock with.

2. Tin foil
You can usually get several uses out of a sheet of tin foil, but you may need to scrub with soap and hot water first. Also, tin foil can be reused in many different ways. Try using it to sharpen your knives and for getting rid of rust spots on metal. Check out this article for ways to reuse aluminum foil.

3. Freezer bags
Freezer bags can be reused again and again. I tend to buy the ones with the easy-seal zipper, which are a bit of a splurge but sturdy enough to wash and reuse several times. Simply soak them in the sink with hot water and soap and then leave them open to dry out thoroughly.

4. Cereal boxes
I always cut up old cereal boxes so my kids can use them to make crafts with. (They make great flags for castles!) But I recently came across this article that goes even further with ideas on how to repurpose cereal boxes. A few examples include gift boxes, notebooks, business cards and….a wallet?? Now that is some serious recycling.

5. Scraps of wood
Whether it’s a broken chair or an old picture frame, wood can be reused. Consider breaking it up for kindling or cut it into pieces and give it to your kids to play with as blocks or for crafts. (Just make sure you sand down rough or sharp edges.)

6. Magazines
Save your old magazines in a craft box for the kids. They’ll have fun cutting out pictures to make art with. Other reusables to add to the craft box: wine corks, old spools and toilet paper rolls.

7. Old sheets and t-shirts
Never throw your t-shirts and sheets out. Instead, rip them up and make rags. Rags do a better cleaning job than paper towel — they’re sturdier, more versatile and you can throw them in the washing machine and reuse them again and again.

8. Small soap bottles
Whether it’s dish or hand soap, keep your bottles and refill them with soap you buy in bulk.

9. Old wallpaper
Wallpaper makes terrific giftwrap because it’s sturdy and easy to work with. You can also use scraps of wallpaper to line cupboards and drawers with.

10. Margarine or yogurt tubs
Those plastic containers last forever. You can use them to pack a lunch — though not for anything that needs to be reheated as those plastics aren’t usually microwave-safe. Or use them as plant protectors in the garden or for basic storage.

11. Glass jars
When you finish your jams or pickles, hang on to the jars. Glass jars are one of the most versatile items we throw away. Once you’ve soaked off the labels, you can use them for a variety of purposes: turn them into flower vases, use them to store things like rice and flour (they’re mouse proof!) and to organize tools in your shed.

What else do you like to reuse that other people tend to throw away?