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Get Creative with Your Recycling!

written by: •edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 5/31/2011

Sometimes when decluttering our homes, we find things we'd love to recycle, but that we have no idea what to do with. Many objects that we might otherwise throw away that could be turned into a great craft project or used other innovative ways to recycle.

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    What Do I Do with All This Junk?

    Don't let salvageable items go to the landfill! First, step away from the trash bin. Take a deep breath. Do you feel better? Now, look around you. What is it you want to recycle? There are a lot of different things you can do with that unwanted stuff that's sitting around. In fact, a lot of what goes into landfills is stuff that could either have been used still, repurposed, or maybe even recycled in fun or creative ways.

    Now, look again at that stack of unwanted books, the pile of worn clothing, and the outdated electronics. Don't feel that those items have to be tossed out with the trash. They don't. There are so many things that you can recycle - and some really fun ways to recycle them.

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    If you're looking for a really great way to recycle unwanted clothing, books, and household items - and you don't want to donate the items to charity (or you don't have a means to get to the charity organization to donate items) - you may want to try recycling unwanted objects using Freecycle.

    The way Freecycle works is that you join a local group. Your local group usually will have a Yahoo group or some other means of allowing members to communicate with one another. You then may create one of three types of posts: Wanted, Offered, or Taken to communicate the desired item, the item you no longer want, and the item that has been picked up. People respond to your offer of free stuff, you leave it out on your porch, and it's picked up. It's a very effective means of getting rid of unwanted stuff and putting it in the hands of those who can use it.

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    Paperback Swap and DVD Swap

    Paperback Swap and DVD Swap are great resources if you are bored with your current books or DVDs. With these websites, you can list the books you are offering, then people select the books they are interested out of those, you print the mailing label, and you mail the items. The best part of this service is that the books are free other than shipping costs.

    Another way to recycle unwanted books, DVDs, and CDs online is to sell your items in an online marketplace - you can use or Ebay. When I moved cross-country a few years ago, I sold many books this way. I sent out an email to everyone in my contacts to alert them that pretty soon my awesome library would be available at Amazon.

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    Refinishing and Repurposing Furniture Items

    You can create furniture you love if you take a second look at it The furniture in my entire living room cost maybe $50 dollars to furnish. I have two antique chairs, a very comfortable foldaway couch, a coffee table that lifts up, and bookshelves. The most expensive item was the bookshelves! Why? I received the couch from a neighbor who was moving out who didn't want to move his new sofa across the country. The green armchair was $5 at a yardsale, the endtable was free, and I refinished it.

    If you have a little bit of skill, and you're not afraid of sandpaper, paint, or a staplegun, you can refinish and

    Repurpose worn furniture so that it matches your decor. How can you tell if a furniture item can be recycled this way? It has to have good bones. Furniture made out of wood, with intact internal structures, which hasn't molded or mildewed, is perfect for projects like this. Don't be afraid to get creative!

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    Getting Crafty with It!

    There are many great crafts you can do that will turn something that wasn't wanted into something that you love. If you're really skilled with your hands, you can even turn around and sell the item on Etsy. Unwanted jeans become cute throw pillows. An old computer keybord becomes several pairs of very cute earrings. Plastic bottles and wine corks are transformed.

    We treat many different craft projects you can do on here, but there are some great blogs to turn to for inspiration as well. If you're looking for inspiration, go ahead and browse the "aisles" at Etsy. Many of the craft items you see there were from recycled objects.

    You don't have to just look to things that were once useful - egg cartons make great kids crafts, recycled soda cans can be (very carefully) turned into something else. Tin cans can be turned into lanterns for your next backyard party.

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    Send Your Items to Someone to Use in Their Crafting

    Let's face it, we don't all have time to use all of the stuff we generate that can be recycled. However, sometimes local artists will work with found items. You may also find that charity organizations take some odd things. For example, did you realize that an African village has been recycling flip flops that have washed up on the shore? There are diferent places that actively solicit the donation of certain items to be recycled. Old Navy was collecting flip flops for a while to use in making safety mats for children's playground equipment.

    It's important to realize that just because it's the end of the road for a particular item with you, it's not the end of the road for that object for someone else (or if you turn it into something else). What are you going to do with those strange recycleable items?

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    Seely, N. "Flip Flops Recycled for Playground Equipment"

    Image courtesy of

    Living room image courtesy of author.