The amount of waste humans create is shocking. According to the United Nations, we dump 2.12 billion tons every year. This collects in piles, landfills and oceans, becoming a danger for animals and an issue for our human population.
Recycling and composting are essential to bringing this amount down, but what about the trash that can’t decompose or be recycled? That’s where upcycling comes in.
Upcycling reuses discarded items in a way that their value increases. Think of repurposing old glass containers for storage or flower vases, or people giving old furniture a new look. Anything can be upcycled if you simply add a little creativity.
Plastic containers with No. 6 on them can be used like shrink plastic to make charms. Shrinky Dinks are expensive, but reusing this plastic is free. Draw a large design on this plastic in permanent marker and lay it on a tray in a 350 degree oven. Keep an eye on this project so it does not burn. Only bake until it shrinks, curls and lays flat again.
Plastic bags can be used like yarn to crochet an upcycled tote that is very durable. For crocheters and knitters, cutting up these bags can be used to make ‘plarn,’ or ‘plastic yarn.’ The bags can be cut into strips and used just like yarn. YouTube has a plethora of tutorials on the subject. Knitting a tote bag uses only 30 plastic bags, and if you’re anything like me, the cabinet under the sink is full of them.
You can always donate old clothes, but if you’re looking to repurpose, there are hundreds of ways to upcycle clothes. You can crop shirts, distress jeans or bedazzle any clothes you have if you’re feeling inspired. Think back to summer camp and tie dyeing shirts with bleach. T-shirts also have a plethora of uses, like cutting them up to use as dishrags or even making a tote bag. Specific tote bag instructions are available on The Slate’s website at https://www.theslateonline.com/article/2022/02/no-sew-t-shirt-tote.
College often means consuming a lot of coffee. If you’re a Starbucks lover, domed Frappuccino cups are a great way to start seeds and eventually grow a beautiful plant. Plastic cups can also be reused for paint and pen storage.
If you make your own coffee, there are many ways to reuse old coffee grounds instead of just throwing them in the garbage. Let them dry a bit and stick them in the fridge to banish unwanted smells. Coffee grounds can also be made into a body scrub that helps to get rid of cellulite. All you need is a cup of coffee grounds, 6 tbsp of melted coconut oil, 3 tbsp of sea salt or sugar and a container to store it in.
Think about the waste you create and tap into your creative consciousness to limit things you buy and not throw anything potentially useful away. Happy upcycling!