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24 Ways to Reuse and Recycle Trash for Crafting

Take your upcycling projects to the extreme with these trash-to-treasure crafts.

By: Caley Walsh, Editor,
24 Ways to Reuse and Recycle Trash for Crafting

Recycled crafts are some of the most popular projects we have here at, and it's no wonder why! In addition to the positive environmental impact, trash to treasure crafts are especially frugal, being that they come at no additional cost.

Here are 24+ ways to recycle through crafting. Below you'll find crafts with cardboard, plastic bottle crafts, bottle cap projects, pop tab crafts, and more. Some of these recycled crafts are excellent to do with children, and some are surprisingly gorgeous projects for adults. Learn how to make paper beads with brown paper bags for example; they're amazingly pretty!

If you're wondering what to make with recycled materials and even straight-up garbage, explore this collection of 24 Ways to Reuse and Recycle Trash for Crafting.

Paper Bag Crafts

Fans- Cut out a rectangular piece of paper from a paper bag. Paint it or decorate it however you desire. Fold accordion style (turning over after ever fold) and secure the bottom of the folds with a dab of glue on each hold or drill a hole through and secure with a bit of string. Fan out.

Envelope or Mailer- Use a plain paper bag (or with the pointing writing inside) to make a recycled envelope or mailer. Fold a large piece in half and seal the sides. You can even use your sewing machine to stitch the sides closed.

Gift Wrap- Brown paper also makes fantastic gift wrap. Decorate with stencils or spray with a coat of glittery metallic spray (available at craft stores). For a minimalist look, use twine or neutral-colored ribbon to tie around the package.

Spray-Painting Aid- Go outside, place an item to be spray-painted inside of a paper grocery bag and spray away. This certainly cuts down on the mess!

Create a flap album from five paper bags.

Recycled Paper Bag Bracelets

Recycled Paper Bag Bracelets
  • Recycled Paper Bag BraceletsMake paper beads from recycled paper bags and use them to make pretty bracelets. Learn how to make friendship bracelets while making paper beads with this craft tutorial!

Brown Bag Place Mat

Brown Bag Place Mat
  • Brown Bag Place MatUse a weaving technique, a recycled paper bag and eco-friendly craft projects to make an attractive and earth friendly place mat. All the products used to create this charming place mat are eco friendly. The tacky Green Glue is completely botanical. Even the paints contain no or low VOC’s (volatile organic compounds).

Brown Paper Bag Beads and Pendant

Brown Paper Bag Beads and Pendant
  • Brown Paper Bag Beads and PendantReduce, reuse and recycle with this jewelry making craft. Try something new and make Brown Paper Bay Beads and Pendant from Cynthia Gagen. It's a fun project that's totally green.

Plastic Bottle Crafts

Use plastic bottles in your garden for a homemade irrigation system. Decorate and/or paint them so they won’t stand out in your garden AS garbage. This is truly a trash to treasure craft!

Pink Flower Water Bottle Bracelets

Pink Flower Water Bottle Bracelets

Water Bottle Storage

Water Bottle Storage
  • Water Bottle StorageUpcycle some water bottles into storage instead of letting them sit in land fills. You can have an organized craft room while being green if you recycle containers with water bottle storage.

Plastic Bottle Birdfeeder

Plastic Bottle Birdfeeder
  • Plastic Bottle BirdfeederInstead of sending more plastic to the landfill, turn a plastic bottle into a fun and functional birdfeeder crafted like a birdhouse. This is a great green craft from Heidi Borchers for using the occasional plastic bottle.

Plastic Bottle Cap Crafts

“Beaded Curtain”- Paint bottle caps different colors (you can paint them red and green for a holiday curtain). Drill a small hole into each and thread onto a string. For evenly spaced “beads” measure and tie a knot before stringing on the next bottle cap. Hang each string from a horizontal line for a beaded curtain.

Use plain bottle caps to create a beautiful lampshade.

Bottle Cap Coaster

Bottle Cap Coaster
  • Bottle Cap CoasterHere's a fun classroom project that reinforces the importance of recycling. Encourage kids to save bottle caps and small lids in other neat shapes and sizes, too.

Plastic Bottle Lid Art

Plastic Bottle Lid Art
  • Plastic Bottle Lid ArtEven plastic bottle lids can be recycled for fantastic art projects like this one from Heidi Borchers of Inspired at Home. Turn the lids into a contemporary art canvas that's sophisticated but easy enough for kids to do!

Bottle Cap Crosses

Bottle Cap Crosses
  • Bottle Cap CrossesUse bottle caps and family pictures to create Christian crosses full of reminders of what to be thankful for. These crosses are a great activity for Bible studies and families to make together. These crosses could also be an Easter craft.

Soda Can Tab Crafts

Create a surprisingly pretty bracelet with pop tabs and elastic cord.

Soda Can Coasters

Soda Can Coasters
  • Soda Can CoastersHere is a fun recycled project that is quick and easy. It is guaranteed to make people smile when they realize the coasters are constructed from soda can metal. What is your favorite flavor of soda?

Soda Can Flower Box Topper

Soda Can Flower Box Topper
  • Soda Can Flower Box TopperThis project is a great example of a green craft that is fun and easy. You don't have to spend a ton of money on your craft creations. Instead, save up materials you have around the house. It's a great way to reduce, reuse and recycle!

Smashed Soda Can Animals

Smashed Soda Can Animals
  • Smashed Soda Can AnimalsA smashed soda or aluminum can becomes a funny cow, pig or bear. This is fun activity by Heidi Borchers of Inspired at Home and a great way to teach kids about recycling.

Cardboard Box Crafts

Magazine Holder- Cut the top off a cereal box. Halfway across the top, cut a 45 degree angle down to the side of the box, across, and back up at the same angle. Lightly sand with sandpaper. Paint the cereal box a uniform color and tie a ribbon around the box. Or, use stamps to decorate. For sponge painting, simple cut out your preferred shape from a sponge, such as a star or leaf, and use this to paint the box.

Pizza Box Art

Pizza Box Art
  • Pizza Box ArtThe kids will really get into the spirit of recycling with this fun project made on a pizza box, compliments of Heidi Borchers of Inspired at Home. The pretty egret is made with pieces of CDs and old cereal boxes are used for the grasses. 

Magazine Holder

Magazine Holder
  • Magazine HolderLearn how to decoupage and make cardboard magazine holders with this cardboard box craft. Decoupage and paint a cereal box to turn it into a decorative storage craft.

What is your favorite recycled material to craft with?

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I love recycling and re-purposing items, so this is a great list of craft ideas! I really like using old magazines for crafts. There are so many things you can do!

These are some really very good tips for recycling.Replas also makes furniture,Decking,post from plastic waste.

I would love to try this creative ideas, there are many old magazine in my closet that I can use, by the way, what kind of finish you added to make it glossy and water resistant? I am a municipal biogas operator, and we have collected tones of papers and cardboard daily, I will include this idea on our propose list.

All of these are great!!! I have made several of them in the past. But what I am looking for now is a craft that uses the plastic grocery bags and I have an abundance of Activia and Jello Pudding cups & I am trying to find crafts to use these with. If anyone can help me with these reply to Thanks!!!!

Do you crochet? Plastic bag crochet patterns available free on the internet. You have to cut the bags and loop them together to make yarn, then crochet. Patterns for purses, tote bags, mats, placemats, hats.

these are all verry cool i created the second braclet

old washing powder boxes are excellent magazine holders

Beaded Curtain: Small plastic beads could be used to space the bottle caps instead of tying knots. Would probably make the projet go faster.

We created the amgazine holders in school grades 3-5. We used old wallpaper as covers. Paint stores were willing to give us their old samples pages for this project.

Cereal box magazine holder- What a great idea. My boyfriend has about 10 magazines laying all over the bathroom, this will be great for organizing them, thanx.


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