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Raid the Recycling Bin: 10 Recycled Crafts

A decorative camera made from recycled materials would be an interesting addition to any bookshelf or side table.
A decorative camera made from recycled materials would be an interesting addition to any bookshelf or side table.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Recycling has become such a ubiquitous part of modern society that it's hard to remember a time when all materials were disposed of in the same bin. But while the act of recycling is important, we must remember that it's the third on the list of ways to reduce your waste. The popular adage of "reduce, reuse, recycle" is ordered that way for a reason. The best way to help the environment is by reducing the amount of waste. Reusing is No. 2 ahead of throwing things into a recycling bin, and as it turns out, it can also be the most fun way to live an environmentally friendly life. One person's trash may be another's treasure, but in the case of these 10 crafty ideas, one person's recycling can be your next art project.

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If your house is like most homes, then you probably go through a lot of cereal boxes each week. Recycling them is a great idea, but so is turning some of them into handy office file boxes. You can thank Martha Stewart for this one. All you need to do is take a cereal box and cut away the top part at a diagonal angle on both sides with a utility knife. Once that's done, just wrap the box with some decorative paper or contact paper and you have a paper file folder. Larger boxes are good for books, while smaller ones are best for papers and magazines.

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Keep all those little pieces together -- and out of little hands.
Keep all those little pieces together -- and out of little hands.
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This project is simple and can really help you keep your home in order. If you have some old glass jars ready for the recycling bin, go ahead and pull them out. You'll also need a 2-by-4-inch piece of wood and a handful of wood screws. Take the lids off of each jar and screw them into center of the wood board, spaced a few inches apart. Then mount that piece of wood on the underside of a shelf in your wood shop that has some clearance beneath it. Fill the jars with whatever you want to -- mixed screws and nails, nuts and bolts, washers, or anything else that can fit. Then, all you have to do is screw the jar into the mounted lid

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With the amount of information available on the Internet these days, you may have a hard time finding any use for the phone book dropped on your front porch once a year. Recycling it is a good idea, but so is turning it into a crafty Christmas decoration. All you need is some time and some green spray paint. And the good news is, this one will keep your kids busy for a while and it's incredibly simple.

Just sit your kids down with a phone book and have them fold the top corner of each page diagonally down to the spine. As you do this, you'll notice that the book will begin to take shape, and once each page has been folded down, its coned shape can stand upright on its own. Spray the book green and add a few small decorations and you have a crafty, handmade tabletop Christmas tree.

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If you're not a beer drinker, try plastic bottle caps instead.
If you're not a beer drinker, try plastic bottle caps instead.
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If mom and dad enjoy a bottle of beer from time to time, then the kids are all set for a crafty project to turn those bottle caps into refrigerator art. Gather your caps and get some tacky glue, small magnets, decorative paper, sequins and beads, and clear sealant. Using a quarter as a guide, cut out small round background paper pieces with a utility knife. Glue that to the inside of the cap, and then decorate the rest with the beads, sequins and whatever tiny decorations suit your fancy. Glue each of the pieces to the paper, and then brush the interior with a clear sealant. Once it all dries, glue the magnet to the back and place on the nearest fridge.

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For this project, all you need are some glass jars, aluminum foil, toothpicks, tape and tea light candles. Once the jars are clean and dry, wrap each one with the aluminum foil and tape down the sides. Then it's time to get creative. Use the toothpicks to pierce holes in whatever design you're inspired to go with. It can be a picture or large letters that spell out a word when placed side by side. Once it gets dark out, place the tea light candle into the bottom of the jar and light it. The result will be a personalized glowing luminary and less glass to be recycled.

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Colored spoons could make each of your spoon people unique.
Colored spoons could make each of your spoon people unique.
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Plastic spoons are great for a family picnic, but chances are they either end up in the recycling bin, or worse, the trash after the fun is over. Next time you have a picnic, save those spoons and wash them off for some craft time. Along with the spoons, all you need is some colored construction paper and glue. Cut strips of the paper about a half an inch wide and fold them back and forth until you have small, accordion-like springy legs and arms. Glue the arms and legs to the spoon in the appropriate spots, and then decorate the head with eyes, hair and mouth. The result? Spoon people that are great to use as tree decorations.

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This crafty project can be a lot of fun to make, and it can teach your kids a little history lesson at the same time. The good news is all you need is two plastic bottles of equal size, a two-hole button, some clear tape and colored sand. Take the lids from the bottles and find a two-hole button that fits tight in the mouth of the bottle. Add your colored sand in one bottle, and then place the button in the opening. Then get the other empty bottle and place it on top and tape it all together, making sure you have a tight seal. Now your hourglass is ready to use. Measure out the length of time it takes to completely empty the sand from one bottle to the other and explain to your kids that this was how early timers worked.

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Keep the sand separate until your ready to pour!
Keep the sand separate until your ready to pour!
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If there's one thing that kids love, it's colored sand. They go crazy for the stuff. That makes this project a great bet for a good time. Take some glass jars and wash and dry them. Then get together a nice variety of colored sand from your local craft store. Have your kids layer the sand with different colors, showing them the technique of tilting the jar to form new colored patterns inside. Or put a stick through the sand to create even more pattern. Once the jars are filled, screw on the lids and hang them wherever you need a little fun and color in your house. Small jars can be hung from the tops of windowsills, while larger jars make great garden art.

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Babies seem to outgrow their clothing every few months, which means that those darling, teensy little baby socks won't be put to good use for very long. So here's a crafty project that gives them a second life. Gather up some ribbon, an embroidery hoop, some colored felt and something to stuff the socks with -- beads, beans or fiberfill stuffing all work well. Decorate each sock with different colors and shapes of felt, googly eyes, and whatever else suits your fancy. Once the sock is adorned, fill it with your stuffing of choice and tie it off tightly with thread and then ribbon. Hang the socks at varying lengths from your embroidery hoop and you have yourself a baby sock mobile.

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This crafty project also makes use of those leftover bottle caps, and it involves getting out into Mother Nature as well. For this one, you'll need some acrylic paint and brushes, plenty of bottle caps, strong wire and assorted decorations. You'll also need a Y-shaped branch and the harder the wood, the better. From here it's pretty simple. Decorate your stick first, painting it in colors that please you, adding beads, feathers or sequins to your liking. Once the stick is nice and colorful, hammer the caps flat, punch a hole through the center of each one with a nail, and string them together between the Y, using the wire. Now your homemade tambourine is complete and all you'll need is a nice set of earplugs.

UP NEXT

How to Make Jewelry From Recycled Materials

How to Make Jewelry From Recycled Materials

Do you know how to make jewelry from recycled materials? Find out how to make jewelry from recycled materials in this article from HowStuffWorks.


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Sources

  • "6 crafts you can make from recycled plastic bottles." Bohemianrevolution.com. May 27, 2012. http://bohemianrevolution.com/6-crafts-you-can-make-from-recycled-plastic-bottles/
  • "Bottle-cap Tambourines." Familyfun.go.com. May 27, 2012. http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/crafts-by-material/recyclable-projects/bottle-cap-tambourines-665451/
  • "Crafts from recycled products." Makingfriends.com. May 27, 2012. http://www.makingfriends.com/recycle.htm
  • "Crafts Made from Recyclables." Familyfun.go.com. May 27, 2012. http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/crafts-by-material/recyclable-projects/4/
  • "History of Christmas Trees." History.com. May 27, 2012. http://www.history.com/topics/history-of-christmas-trees
  • "Martha Stewart is released from prison." History.com. March 4, 2005. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/martha-stewart-is-released-from-prison
  • "Recycled Crafts." Marthastewart.com. May 27, 2012. http://www.marthastewart.com/274347/recycled-crafts/@center/277003/home-smarts

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