From Trash to Treasure: Upcycling Ideas that Make Sense

Tulsa Master Recyclers Association

BIG IDEA: This upcycling idea brings fond childhood memories. Turn your old entertainment center into a little one’s dream play kitchen.

You’ve probably heard of the three R’s of reduce, reuse and recycle. But today’s column is brought to you by the letter “U” for “upcycle.”

Upcycling refers to the reusing of discarded objects or materials to create new products that excede the quality or value of the original.

Whether or not the following ideas improve on an original product is a matter of opinion, and there are a lot of crafty ideas I’d never consider. I will not be turning old light bulbs into adorable, tiny flower vases. But some of these ideas are fascinating and can allow products to pull double duty instead of winding up so quickly on our curbsides.

For complete how-to details, you can utilize the search engine, Google’s eco-friendly cousin.

Kid’s Corner
Now that flat screen TVs are the norm in most households, what to do with that old entertainment center? Why, turn it into a child’s dream play kitchen. Don’t have children? Sell it on Craig’s List once it’s completed. You’re bound to get more cash for the upcycle than the original product!
From, get carpet rolls (they’re like giant paper towel rolls) and turn them into life-sized Lincoln logs.

Keep the cardboard boxes from cereals and crackers (sans food), tape them back shut and you’ve got a stack of blocks. Add toilet paper and paper towel rolls for building castles. You can even turn the boxes inside out for a more uniform look and to allow you/your child to paint them.

With a plastic bottle, four bottle caps, four twist ties and a hole puncher, it’s easy to create a toy vehicle. Use different shaped and sized bottles, such as water, detergent and orange juice containers for a fleet.

Rinse out old juice packets, add Velcro to the opening and you’ve got great snack packs to go.

Use a (disinfected) yard rake to toast a lot of marshmallows and hot dogs at once over a camp fire.

Home Helpers
This is one of my favorites: Cut a toilet paper roll down the side so you can place it over your wrapping paper. Keeps it rolled up and eliminates the need for that one piece of tape that tears and wastes a section of your paper.

Another use of toilet paper rolls: Use them to store cords. Roll ‘em up, stuff ‘em in, and write what the cord is for along the outside of the roll. I’ve seen this idea with the roll covered in fabric swatches but that’s not how I roll. (Pun intended).
Place shower curtain rings on a hanger to hang your scarves, belts and baseball hats.

Use old cardboard egg cartons for seed starters.

Flip a mini-dv tape case backwards and use it as a smart phone holder.

If you get a new dishwasher, keep the racks from your old one and utilize them as under-the-bed storage. They’re already loaded with wheels, creating easy access.
Take a plastic bottle, such as a soda or orange juice bottle and poke two holes on its sides and two on the bottom. Bury it partially into the dirt next to your plants. Fill with water and you’ve got a slow-release watering system. Use a smaller bottle such as a water bottle for your potted plants, especially when you leave for vacation.

The handle breaks on your steel rake? That’s okay – hang it upside down in the kitchen and hang utensils on it you use most, or even a few wine glasses.
Clean out that used Chapstick container to hide emergency money inside.
Use a bread tab to hold your spot on a roll of tape.

Check out my Pinterest page for instructions on:
• Turning an old pizza box into a laptop/iPad/Kindle stand
• Creating a projector with a smartphone, a magnifying glass and a shoebox
• Creating an ottoman with an old Styrofoam cooler
Do you have a simple upcycling idea? Tweet it, post it, send it in! Follow me onTwitter @TrashTalkTulsa, on Pinterest at Beth Turner, or email me at

Updated 10-22-2013

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