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Rainbow Life Blog

Trash to Treasure - Creative Reuse Part 2

by Hannah Briant 05 Oct 2021 0 Comments
Upcycling Economy

Following on from Part 1 here are few clever Upcycling Ideas:

Tin Cans:

We all know about the abundance of tin cans in our recycling bins and there are many things you can do with tin cans. How about decoupaging a can with wallpaper as a storage container for all your bits and bobs?


Why not find some new uses for glass bottles, jars, and even windows before you immediately put it in the recycling bin?

  • Use wine bottles and beer bottles as rustic vases or decorate them as wedding centrepieces
  • Hang glass bottles as a decorative windchime
  • Use an old window as a notice board/white board or add some legs and turn it into a coffee table.
  • Turn mason jars into bathroom storage, money boxes, or kitchen organizers.
  • Buy a glass cutter and make drinking glasses, vases, pendant lights and candle holders out of empty wine and spirit bottles.


  • Create large scale wall art with big pieces and pallet offcuts.
  • Turn a door into a headboard or a table.
  • Use reclaimed wood as the basis for any wood building project from a mud kitchen for the kids to an outdoor shed or a window seat.
  • Use a log as a coffee table top.

Paper & Card:

Newspaper, magazines, brown paper packaging filler, torn books, receipts and old coupons are just a few more examples of the kinds of paper waste we all accumulate that usually ends up in our recycling bin.

There are lots of ways we can upcycle paper:

  • Make junk journal notebooks or colouring books out of junk mail and envelopes instead of buying blank notebooks
  • Use newspaper in decoupage projects
  • Reuse brown paper packaging filler as rustic kraft style gift wrapping.
  • Use crumpled or torn wrapping paper in crafts for Valentine’s Day or Birthdays.
  • Use ripped book pages as a bouquet.
  • Use leftover wrapping paper to decorate cardboard storage units.

Styrofoam & other non-biodegradable protective packaging:

Doesn’t your heart just sink when you open something you’ve bought only to find it is encased in styrofoam or some other type of foam packaging or pellets?

This type of packaging is often used for electronics or items for the home like taps, shower heads and ovens.

Here are some ways to upcycle this kind of packaging:

  • Use it as a base for flower arranging
  • Make a Christmas Wreath
  • Pack it tightly together and cover it with fabric to make foot stools or occasional seating.
  • Use it to ‘insulate’ drafty areas of your home.


We all buy too much clothing.  Fashion is fickle, waste bands increase and decrease, and clothes wear out, get ripped, torn or stained.

But the popularity of concepts like the capsule wardrobe or Marie Kondo’s theories about only keeping clothing that sparks joy for you would suggest that we all have a bit of a clothing hoarding problem which the fashion industry loves.

Here are a few ideas to repurpose the old:

  • Add applique (embroidery) to make an old garment new again.
  • Make a rag rug out of old t-shirts or sweaters.
  • Make a wall hanging or a kid’s apron out of men’s shirts.
  • Use old clothing to make unpaper towels for your kitchen or make up remover pads.
  • Use old shirts or sheets to make macrame wall hangings.
  • Make a tote bag for your groceries or a leather purse out of an old pair of boots or your old jeans.
  • Make a large handbag out of a denim skirt.
denim with scissors and yarn

Traditional quilting has a long history of using fabric scraps, remnants and old clothes. The Indian Kantha hand stitching technique, which repurposes fabric pieces, can be traced back 500 years. See an example here:


Consider your furniture your canvas and let out your inner artist.

Replacing the handles on an old piece of furniture can sometimes be all that is needed to make you fall back in love with it.

  • Use decoupage, faux marble techniques and stencils to add a special pattern or design that complements the rest of your décor.
  • Re-upholster a comfortable but ugly armchair.


If your furniture is broken beyond repair, consider using the component parts for something else:

  • make a cat bed out of a drawer
  • a garden bench out of the frame of a dresser or an old cot.


Bric a Brac:

  • Paint or decoupage an old lamp
  • Use old cookie cutters or spoons as coat hooks.
  • Hang mismatched plates as a wall gallery.
  • Update an old picture frame.
  • Use broken toys or old pots and pans as planters in your garden.
  • Use leftover tiles as wall art
  • Use a cracked mug as a succulent planter.


table with upcycled cups with plants growing


Where to find materials to Upcycle:

Most of us have a hard enough time reusing and upcycling the unwanted objects and rubbish in our own homes. But sometimes you might want or need something specific for your home and you don’t have the right thing to upcycle yourself to make it happen.

If you don’t want to buy new, and you are looking for places where you can buy or obtain other people’s unwanted items, then here are some starting places:  

Friends and family with lots of stuff and no time or inclination to upcycle will often be more than happy to give you their unwanted things.

Sites like Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and Friday Ads are full of listings of people looking to get rid of used items.  Usually you can pick things up cheaply and there are usually some listings of items for free as well.  Particularly things like pallets and garden rubble (stones etc) can usually be picked up for free if you have the transportation to go pick it up. eBay is a great source of second-hand clothing, scrap fabric and bric-a-brac items.

Local charity shops and charity shops will have a whole range of different things.

If you are looking for an ongoing source of raw material for a small business, have a think about what would be useful to you and what kind of business uses that material in their production process.  Then think about getting in touch with some local businesses to see if they would give you their waste or sell it to you cheaply.  In the UK businesses pay for waste collection, so if there is something you can offload for a business, they will likely be more than happy to let you take it.

5 Great Upcycling Bloggers we recommend:


And if you want to support creative reusers by buying their products, take a look at our RainbowLife collection here:
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