New Uses for Recyclable Items
Paper Tubes as Lincoln Logs
Cut squares out of the sides that are roughly the same diameter as the tube (see bottom left of photo) for a DIY version of Lincoln Logs perfect for little hands. Stack the “logs” perpendicularly to one another. It's a no-cost way to let the good times roll.
Cereal Box as Sweets Carrier
Attention, PTA members: Here’s a practical Transport Alternative for the bake sale. Tape a cereal box closed, then cut away the front or back panel to create a tray for those top-selling brownies. Best of all, you can just "donate" the box.
Bleach Bottle as Cat Litter Scoop
Cut diagonally across the middle of an empty, clean bottle, toss the base, and use the half with the handle to scoop up soil or cat litter.
Cereal Bag as Crumb Maker
These durable bags can take a beating. Fill one up and give it a whack with a rolling pin to make crumbs out of crackers, cornflakes, or candy. Remember to twist the top closed to prevent flyaways.
Soda Bottle as Pasta Measurer
Said good-bye to soda? Fill the mouth of a dry 20-ounce bottle with uncooked spaghetti; the opening holds enough for a hearty single serving.
Beer Can as Noise Maker
Cut down on drinking? You can still start 2012 off with a bang—or at least a rattle. Drop a dozen coins into a clean, empty beer can and seal the opening with tape. When the clock strikes 12, shake some noise.
Candy Wrapper as DIY Gift Wrap
Sworn off candy? Use the leftover wrappers to sugarcoat small-scale presents: Cut a wrapper into a flat sheet, then fold and tape as usual.
Cereal Box as Photo Saver
Sending Grandpa a shot of the all-star soccer team but don't want the postal journey to bend it (like Beckham)? Sandwich the picture between the large panels of a flattened box.
Cereal Box as Drawer Organizer
If you're the flaky type, cereal boxes (including the single-serving minis) can corral desk-drawer chaos. Slice off the tops and the bottoms and fill them with loose odds and ends.
Shower Curtain Liner as Child’s Smock
Finger-painting on the day’s agenda? Cut a new shower curtain liner in half or in fourths, and then cut a hole in the center for your little one’s head to pop through.
Scratched CD as Paint Palette
When you're working on an art project, dab the colors you need onto a CD. (Place one finger in the hole to keep the CD stable.)
Bleach Bottle as Dumbbell
Outfit a home gym by filling two empty bottles with sand and using them as dumbbells.
Coffee Can Lid as Twine Dispenser
Save your coffee can's lid from the recycling bin and use it to dispense twine. Simply poke a hole in the lid and run the twine through.
Sticky Note as Keyboard Cleaner
To make your QWERTY cleaner, slide the adhesive strip of a sticky note through the crevices to collect and lift out dust and debris.
Baby Food Jar as Paint Bucket
Simplify paint touch-ups by pouring a few ounces of each new wall paint into a jar for when those times it’s needed to cover the inevitable nail holes and scuffs.
Cork as Sewing Kit
Make a compact sewing kit by sticking needles and pins in a cork. For a little zip, wrap it with a few lengths of thread.
Film Canister as Manicure Kit
Assemble a mobile manicure kit by cutting a sponge into small pieces, saturating them with nail polish remover, and storing them in the canister.
Film Canister as Stamp Dispenser
Unspool stamps by cutting a slit in the side of a film canister and threading the end of the roll throught it.
Milk Carton as Packing Material
Safely deliver fragile trinkets by wrapping them in bubble wrap, tucking them into a clean carton, and pinching the top closed.
Newspaper as Packing Material
Wrap frames and figurines with several pieces of newspaper, then crumple the remaining sections to fill extra space in the box.
Newspaper as Window Washer
Newspapers deposit less lint than paper towels do and don't leave any streaks. Just spray on a glass cleaner and wipe.
Newspaper as Shoe Deodorizer
Help shoes keep their shape and smell fresh by stuffing them with newspaper after wearing them.
Paper Plates as China Protectors
Prevent good china from chipping by layering paper plates between each piece of your formal dinnerware.
Soda Bottle as Water Saver
Waste less water. Fill a plastic bottle with liquid and place it in the tank of an old toilet (not a high-efficiency one). That way, it will require less resources to refill.
Soda Bottle as Boot Supporter
Insert an empty one-liter plastic bottle into a tall boot to keep it from sagging, creasing, or toppling over. Bonus: Upright boots create space on your closet floor to fill as you please (hmm…more boots?).
Paper Towel Tube as Plastic Bag Storage
Contain plastic bags in a drawer or under the cabinet by stuffing them into an empty tube and pulling out as needed.
Wine Bottle as Boot Supporter
Preserve the shape of tall leather boots by placing a bottle into each one's shaft for reinforcement.
Wine Rack as Magazine File
Roll up the most recent issues and slide into the spots usually reserved for your favorite reserves.
Wire Hanger as Ribbon Dispenser
Dispense ribbon for wrapping gifts. Untwist the hanger—or pop out the cardboard-tube bottom of a hybrid hanger from the dry cleaner—and slide on spools for easy storage.
Yogurt Container as Seedling Cup
Poke a few drainage holes in the bottom of a yogurt cup and start growing seeds there before transplanting them to larger pots or garden beds.
Paper Towel Tube as Wrinkle Preventer
Ward off wrinkles in silk scarves by wrapping them around the tube between wearings.
Toilet Paper Roll as Cord Holder
Contain extra extension cords by wrapping the length of one around your hand then sliding the whole thing inside the tube.
Toilet Paper Tube as Hair Accessory Holder
Store hair accessories on an empty TP tube by stretching elastics around the roll and sliding clips and bobby pins on one end.
Aluminum Foil as Wrinkle Remover
To get wrinkles out of silk, wool, and rayon clothes that can't take direct heat, place a piece of foil on your ironing board, then lay the garment flat over it. With the steam button down, pass the iron three to four inches over the fabric several times. Wet heat radiating from the foil helps smooth out wrinkles.
Aluminum Foil as Fixture Protector
Protect doorknobs and hardware in the kitchen and bathroom when you're painting by wrapping foil around them to catch dribbles. The foil molds to the shape of whatever it's covering and stays firmly in place until the job is complete.
Aluminum Foil as an Antenna
If your DVD player is stacked on top of the TV (or vice versa) and the picture is fuzzy, the two electromagnetic fields may be commingling, confusing the signals. (This usually happens with plastic casings; with metal it's less likely.) Slip a sheet of foil between the machines to separate the fields.
Aluminum Foil as Glassware Scrubber
To get baked-on food off a glass pan or an oven rack, use dishwashing liquid and a ball of foil in place of a steel-wool soap pad, says Mary Findley, president of the cleaning-products developer Mary Moppins. It's one way to recycle those used but perfectly good pieces of foil you hate to throw out.
Aluminum Foil as a Funnel
Fashion a funnel of foil to neatly transfer salad dressings or condiments from tacky plastic bottles to pretty carafes or back again. Place it in the bottle and pour away.
Aluminum Foil as a Piecrust Protector
To prevent a piecrust from burning while the filling cooks, make a foil collar to deflect heat. Take a piece of foil about 25 inches long, fold it into thirds lengthwise, and fasten the ends with a paper clip. Halfway into the baking, slip the collar over the crust (as shown). Leave it on until the pie is done.
Aluminum Foil as a Grilling Helper
Really hot grill bars equal dramatic grill marks on your porterhouse. To concentrate the heat and keep it from escaping, lay a sheet of foil over the grill for 10 minutes. Peel the foil off just before cooking, scrunch it into a ball (it cools fast), and use it later to scrape any residue or ash from the bars.
Apple Container as Ornament Storage
Store delicate tree decor where the fruit once went to protect items from bumps and bruises. (You can also use wine boxes or egg cartons.)
Can as Biscuit Cutter
Most biscuit cutters make overly wide biscuits, anyway―more beret than top hat. Use a tomato-paste can to achieve the proper size. First, scoop out the paste and freeze it in Tupperware or a storage bag. Then remove both the top and the bottom with a can opener and wash the interior. To prevent sticking, dip the can in flour before each cut.
Citrus Peels as Bowls
Serve sorbet in a memorable way. After juicing (or eating) grapefruit, orange, lemon, or lime halves, scoop out and freeze the peels. Cut a small slice off the bottom to create a level surface (without creating a hole), then fill with ice cream.
Gift Box as Cupcake Carrier
If the forecast calls for iced roadways, stabilize your sweet cargo by cutting X’s into the tops of gift boxes and inserting the cupcakes. (A shirt box will hold about eight.)
Greeting Cards as Gift Tags
Create a gift tag by cutting a greeting card down to size, then punch a hole in the corner and slide a ribbon through it.
Last Year's Holiday Cards as This Year's Table Runner
Rescue last year’s heartfelt wishes by turning them into a festive table runner of winter wonderlands. Place the cards facedown on a color copy machine (they should cover most of the glass). Next, put a piece of colored fabric or paper on top of the cards to serve as a border. Print out multiple copies (enough to cover the length of your table) on 11-by-17-inch paper. With double-stick tape, join the copies along the top and the bottom.
Ketchup Bottle as Dessert Decorator
Run an empty plastic ketchup bottle through the dishwasher, then fill it with your favorite sauce or condiment. Drizzle some rosemary-scented olive oil across a bowl of white bean soup, a squiggle of fudge or raspberry sauce around the rim of a dessert plate. (If calligraphy is not your strong suit, practice on a paper plate or stick to abstract designs.) You'll have a five-star-chef presentation in less than five minutes.
Ketchup Bottle as Pancake Batter Dispenser
Portion pancake batter with precision―without the usual mess of transferring batter from the bowl. Squeeze out baby-size or plate-size rounds, or add Mickey Mouse ears to a batch of silver dollars.
Lightbulb Carton as Photo Protector
Protect photographs when you send them via snail mail. Flatten the corrugated cardboard box, then slide photos of loved ones (the true lights of your life) inside. Grandma will appreciate the wrinkle-free snapshots.
Newspaper as Wrapping Paper
Save the comics section for a child's birthday surprise or use the wedding announcements for an engagement.
Drink Carrier as Condiment Kit
Cart condiments to a backyard barbecue. Slot flatware, ketchup and mustard in the compartments for easy transport.
Drink Carrier as Car Caddy
Stash the compartments with granola bars, hand wipes, tissues, and such, then reach for the cardboard savior when your backseat drivers are steering you toward Crazytown (population: one frazzled mom).
Tea Bag as Bug Bite Soother
A smart way to soothe itchy mosquito bites: Place a cold, used tea bag on the sting and let it sit for five minutes. Tea will help ease sunburn, too: Brew a pot and pour it into a bath of lukewarm water. Soak until you feel relief.
Tissue Box as Plastic Bag Holder
Dispense plastic grocery bags with ease. Stuff your empties into and old tissue box and store under the sink. Then pull out one at a time when you need it.
Wine Box as Shoe Storage
Warehouse your shoes in an empty wine-bottle carton wrapped in pretty paper.
Wrapping Paper as Table Runner
Cut wrapping paper with pinking shears to craft a runner. (Use double-stick tape to secure the runner to the tablecloth.) You can also use cupcake foils as tea-light votives that require no wax cleanup; simply toss the foils when the wick is snuffed.