We throw away or send for recycling hundreds of tonnes of rubbish every week. The more we recycle, the less ends up in landfill, polluting the landscape and environment. But even better than recycling is to reuse or up-cycle as much as you can in the first place!
Up-cycling can be fun, it can be creative, it can even save you money as you turn something you don’t want into something useful that you do! There are lots of items at home that can be easily up-cycled.
We’ve selected a few to get you started. For many of these, adult help and supervision is required. They all make great projects you can do at home with items you probably already have around the house.
Tin can tea-light holders
You can make some really beautiful candle holders from old tin cans by punching holes in patterns around the side of them. Pop in a candle (with supervision! Or use a battery-operated one!) they can cast pretty patterns on the wall.
This activity will need adults to do most of the work, but there’s lots kids can do like draw the design and help paint the cans afterwards.
You will need:
- Empty, clean tin cans with the labels removed
- A steady work bench
- Some foam and a BIG lump of blu-tack
- If you have it, a vice and a piece of wood that will fit inside the cans
- A metal file
- Safety glasses and gloves
- A metal punch or a hammer and a nail.
How to make them:
- Make sure the tin cans are clean and empty.
- File down the sharp edge around the rim with the metal file. Make sure you wear glasses and keep kits away as you don’t want metal shards to get into anyone’s eyes. This is also best done outside, and you’ll want to sweep up carefully afterwards. You may also want to sand the edges down to make sure there’s nothing sharp left.
- Design the pattern you’d like to be punched into the can. This can be drawn on a piece of paper first, then marked on the can using dots of paint – this bit is okay for kids, so long as sharp edges have been made safe.
- The adult then punches the hole in the can. The best way, if you have the equipment for it, is to put a sturdy piece of wood in a vice, put the can on one end of the piece of wood, and place a piece of blu-take under where the hole will be punched through.
- Using the metal punch or the hammer and nail, punch through a series holes, tracing the pattern of dots marked on the can.
- File and sand down any sharp edges inside or outside the can so it’s safe to handle again.
- Back to the kids; paint the can any colours you fancy! It can be plain, stripes, patterns or dots!
- Pop a candle in the tin, pop it somewhere safe, turn down the lights and admire your handywork!
Toilet roll seed pots
Toilet rolls are brilliant for so many art and craft projects, but they also make great little plant pots for cultivating seeds in. When the seeds have sprouted enough, you can plant the whole thing, loo-roll pot and all, into the ground.
You will need:
- A load of empty toilet rolls
- A tray
- Some water
How to make them:
- Take each toilet roll and make a series of cuts about 1cm long into one end, so that it’s a little like flowers on a petal
- Starting in one spot, fold the ‘petal’ over to cover the base, then keep folding all the other petals inwards until it makes a natural base to the pot.
- Put the pot in the tray, then top it up with soil, leaving about 2cm from the top, and gentle press it down (but not too hard!)
- Pop one or two seeds in per toilet roll, then cover with another 1cm of soil
- Water all the pots, and make sure they’re kept watered – you’ll be able to see if the soil is damp enough by whether the outside of the toilet roll looks damp. Handy, right?
- Place pots in a warm spot until they start to germinate!
- Once the seedlings are looking strong and big, you can plant them, pot and all, out into the garden, windowbox or plant-pot. The toilet roll will compost away.
Cardboard rolls into a wall organiser
If you’ve got even more toilet rolls around the house, and other cardboard rolls like the ones that wrapping paper comes wrapped around, or that posters are posted in, then you can make yourself some fun wall storage that’s just perfect for displaying things in an unusual way.
- Lots of cardboard rolls of different widths
- A ruler
- A craft knife and thick mat or board to cut on
- Glue, ideally super glue or a glue gun
- Paints in your favourite colours
- Fun things to pop on in your organiser!
How to make it:
- Choose how deep you want your wall organiser to be. This will depend on what you want to store in it. For example, if it’s pens and pencils, make it just a little bit shallower than the size of the pens so they stick out a little bit. If it’s smaller items, then shallower will do. We suggest about 15cm.
- Using the ruler, mark the tubes 15cm along from one end. If the tubes are long enough, you may be able to get several sections from one tube.
- Carefully, and with adult help if required, use the craft knife to cut out the lengths of tube.
- It can also look nice if you make some of the tubes a bit longer and some a bit shorter. When you paint them, this will make all the different colours stand out.
- Paint all the tubes in a variety of your favourite colours. To make the colours nice and bright, paint them white first, then let that coat of paint dry thoroughly, then paint over it with your colours. Again, let that coat dry completely.
- Glue all the pieces together, mixing up the sizes of tube and the colour so it’s a nice mix or pattern. Wait for the glue to try.
- Either pop your organiser on a shelf or hang it on the wall, and fill it with your favourite things!
Plastic bottle into a bird feeder
While we’re all using much fewer plastic bottles in general, if you do have any around the place why not turn them into a simple bird feeder.
All you need is;
- A clean, empty plastic bottle
- Marker pen
- Craft knife or another way of making a hole
- 2 or 3 pencils
- Bird seed
How to make it:
- You’re going to want to have to two or three pencils passing through the bottle at different heights and different angle to make perches for the birds, so hold the pencils near the bottle where you’d like them to go through, and use the marker to pop a dot on either side of the bottle where you’ll make the holes.
- Using the craft knife (adults are probably needed for this step!) cut a little cross shape over the dots.
- Above each dot where the pencil perches will be, make a few smaller holes that are big enough for a bird to be able to peck out some of the birdseed.
- Push the pencils through the bigger holes until you have them all in place.
- Open the lid and fill the bottle up with bird seed, then pop the lid back on.
- Tie a length of string around the neck of the bottle just under where the lid screws on, then tie it to a branch or tree in your garden. If you don’t have a branch to tie it too, anything that allows it to hang down so birds can get to it is fine. It’s even better if you place it somewhere you can watch it when you’re inside!