Reducing waste through upcycling, repurposing, refashioning and reloving.

Trimming my waste: Week 13 (40+ upcycles)



Goals - Week 13:
  • See the potential in waste
  • Reduce recycling
  • Remain hyper aware of how much packaging I generate

Stretch goal: keep upcycling! 
Read on for links to 40+ tutorials for upcycling common packaging items.

If you happened to read the feature I wrote for Reloved Magazine, then you know that I’ve been upcycling for as long as I can remember. And certainly long before the word “upcycling” entered our vocabulary in the late 1990s thanks to German engineer Reiner Pilz. Perhaps I was inspired by my love of The Wombles and The Borrowers. Or perhaps it’s because I grew up in apartheid South Africa, surrounded by ingenious repurposing, driven by need or poverty. And then there's the influence of my very creative, very frugal parents who still scoff at the idea of buying something that could easily be “made.” 

As part of reducing my waste, I certainly aim to bring less packaging into my home. But there are some things that are hard to avoid, like the cardboard inners from toilet rolls. Or the odd shampoo bottle. Or the packaging on beer cans. Because yes, I enjoy locally brewed craft beer and I don't want to stop buying it. 

So here are LOTS of ideas to consider before you recycle. 


Pictured above is table lamp made entirely from cardboard packaging. Click here for the instructions.

Find other ideas for upcycling cardboard inner tubes here and here.




Perhaps you live in a city that's banned single-use plastic grocery bags (hooray!). Or perhaps you've now mastered the art of bringing along your reusable bags every time.

That doesn't mean you aren't sitting on a pile of plastic bags... perhaps wondering what to do with them. Enter "plarn". Cutting plastic bags into strips that can then knit or crocheted into bags and rugs was a favorite craft of my grandmother's.

The plarn lunch tote pictured above was made by my friend Ruth. Complete instructions here.  bag

For a round-up of fun plarn ideas, click here.




Plastic bottles and caps are probably the hardest things to avoid if you aren't making all your toiletries and cleaning products. So here are lots of ideas for re-using them!

1. Make a kitchen organizer, as pictured above.
2. Make candlesticks, a jewelry organizer and more from soda bottles - click here
3. Make an amazing light fixture using soda bottles and twine
4. Make an array of fun and useful things using shampoo bottles - click here

And finally, don't forget the caps! You'd be surprised at the things you can make with them. Ideas here. 



And finally, the beer packaging. I call this my beer chandy and I love how well it hides the ugly light fixture in my apartment. Complete instructions here.