Best Tips for Recycling and Reusing Stuff in the Home and Garden

Updated on May 4, 2018
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Eugene, an avid self-taught DIYer, has acquired 30 years of experience with power/hand tools, plumbing, electrics, and woodwork.

Recycle - ReUse - Repurpose

Recycling is all the rage nowadays, whether the incentive is to save money, to be "green," or to comply with local government. However in the days before it became trendy to recycle, reuse was the name of the game. Waste from home and garden could be given a new lease of life by being used again or repurposed for another application.

This article is about reusing stuff. It also gives you some useful tips you can try out in the home and garden.

Source

Cleaning

  • Vinegar and lemon are great natural cleaning agents. They are great for removing rust stains from baths, showers and toilets and also help remove limescale. They are also useful for cleaning grime and mildew from shower curtains and tiles, for cleaning tea and coffee stains from mugs and for removing tarnish from brass.
  • Baking soda is an excellent cleaning agent for removing grease and marks from cooking hobs. It is mildly abrasive and this helps to remove stubborn marks
  • Toothpaste is mildly abrasive and can be used with vinegar for polishing brass items


Appliances

  • AA Batteries. When your hi-tech electronic gadget indicates that the AA batteries are flat, don't throw them out. There is plenty of charge in them to run a battery clock for up to a year.
  • Solar Torches. Keep small keyring-type solar torches on a windowsill in every room .They come in handy if the power goes off or can be used for looking for things in nooks and crannies. Also they are always charged so this means you don't have to search for batteries in an emergency.

Garden

  • Window cleaning bottles. Pump spray bottles which contained window cleaner, stain removal spray etc, can be filled with Roundup solution and used for spot treating weeds. Just wash out the bottles thoroughly before filling with solution and label the bottle with a marker to avoid confusion. You can also use these bottles for misting plants.
  • Compost. Grass clippings can be composted but numerous other materials can be recycled also including soft clippings from shrubs and hedges, moss, sawdust, shredded newspapers, teabags and coffee grinds
  • Spades and hoes. If you keep these razor sharp with a sharpening stone, file or angle grinder, digging and hoeing is much easier. Just make sure you don't miss the ground and hit your toes! When gardening it is a good idea to wear steel toe cap shoes or boots
  • Lubricate saws with a candle. When using a bow saw to cut logs or even a hand saw when cutting limber, rub a candle on both sides of the blade of the saw. This helps to lubricate the blade.
  • Waste copper wire. If you have any of this left over from electrical renovations, remove the outer sheath and use short pieces for tying climbers and other plants to walls, trellis or stakes.
  • Cotton thread reels, medicine containers and corks. If you use plastic or bamboo canes in the garden, there is always the danger of getting poked in the eye. You can push these items down onto the ends of the canes to prevent injury.

Corks, cotton reels and pill containers used to make canes safe
Corks, cotton reels and pill containers used to make canes safe | Source
Empty spray bottles which contained window cleaner are excellent for misting plants or spraying weedkiller - Make sure to label them appropriately
Empty spray bottles which contained window cleaner are excellent for misting plants or spraying weedkiller - Make sure to label them appropriately | Source
The inner cores of power cables can be used for tying plants to stakes
The inner cores of power cables can be used for tying plants to stakes | Source

Plumbing

  • Gate Valves. Get to know the location of all your gate valves and their function. Ensure they haven't become seized. When a pipe bursts, you don't want to waste valuable time working out how to turn off the water.
  • Tape. Keep a roll of duct tape or insulating tape handy which can be wrapped around a burst pipe and reduce the amount of water escaping from a leak.

Electrical

  • Breakers. Know the function of all the breakers in the breaker panel so that power can be switched off.

  • GFI Breaker. Remember to trip this every so often to check it is working ok.

Painting

  • When you have cleaned a paint brush in white spirits, don't throw it out. If you store the dirty spirit in a can or bottle, the solids from the paint settle out over weeks or months and the next time you go to paint, you can just decant off the clean spirit and use it again. You can do this indefinitely.
  • When taking a break from painting, wrap the brush tightly in a light plastic bag such as those found at he vegetable section in a store. This will prevent the paint on the brush from drying and the brush becoming hard.


Tiling

  • When drilling tiles, stick a piece of masking or insulating tape on the tile. This makes the surface less slippery so the drill bit doesn't slide while drilling

In the Workshop

If you have a home workshop and like to build and repair stuff or are fond of arts and crafts, there are lots of waste items which can be recycled.

  • Copper, stainless steel or PVC pipe left over from plumbing has lots of uses. If metal pipe is cut into various lengths and attached to light chain or cord, it can be used for making wind chimes.Handles can also be made from pipe and a heat gun is useful for bending PVC pipe into various shapes.
  • Leather from shoes comes in handy for making gaskets or washers because it is a tough material and is quite heat resistant. In fact before the days of plastic gaskets and O-rings, leather was used for this function. It's not totally non-permeable but can be useful for some applications.
  • Clock springs are very useful. Old alarm clocks have two of them, one for driving the time mechanism and one for the bell. The thin metal strip from which spiral clockwork springs are made comes in very hand for making spring clips. Plastic clips on the casings of tools and appliances sometimes get broken off. The springy steel from a clock spring can be bent into shape to make a replacement part. Now this steel snaps quite easily if over bent (because it is so hard). Heating the spring at the point of bending is necessary to anneal or soften the steel. This must also be done if holes need to be drilled through the spring. A small blowtorch like the one below, available from Dealextreme, comes in very handy for localized heating.

Mini blow torch - Useful for localized heating
Mini blow torch - Useful for localized heating | Source
Clock springs can be used for making spring clips
Clock springs can be used for making spring clips | Source
Spring clips can be made from clocksprings. I replaced the broken plastic clip on the cover of this hedge trimmer with a piece of clock spring
Spring clips can be made from clocksprings. I replaced the broken plastic clip on the cover of this hedge trimmer with a piece of clock spring | Source
Plastic waste pipe comes in handy as a handle for a home made extension reel
Plastic waste pipe comes in handy as a handle for a home made extension reel | Source
Assorted leather pieces which can be used for making seals
Assorted leather pieces which can be used for making seals | Source
Leather piston from a kerosene blow torch
Leather piston from a kerosene blow torch | Source
A leather gasket served as a perfect replacement on the sump of this Suffolk Punch lawn mower engine (Now used on a cement mixer!)
A leather gasket served as a perfect replacement on the sump of this Suffolk Punch lawn mower engine (Now used on a cement mixer!) | Source

How Do You Recycle?

Many household items can be recycled using the wheelie bins or trash cans provided by councils / municipal authorities. Make sure that if you are paying per lift of a trash can, all waste is flattened to remove air and packed tightly. You don't want to be paying for the collection of air! This is blatantly obvious and common sense but it is surprising how many people throw cartons and bottles into a bin without squeezing out the air. Lots of household organic waste can be composted. This includes kitchen waste such as vegetable skins, old cut flowers, dead plants from flower pots. Waste from the garden such as leaves, grass clippings can be added to the compost bin also.

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Eugene Brennan

    Comments

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      • eugbug profile image
        Author

        Eugene Brennan 5 months ago from Ireland

        Thanks Deborah! Recycling is trendy, but upcycling, hacking and repurposing are just as important.

      • Deborah Minter profile image

        Deborah Minter 5 months ago from U.S, California

        Helpful tips! It's always good to reuse the resources that is available to us.

      • eugbug profile image
        Author

        Eugene Brennan 16 months ago from Ireland

        Thanks Sheila!

      • sgbrown profile image

        Sheila Brown 16 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

        Great hub! You have lots of really good tips and tricks here for recycling so many things!

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