Upcycling can help cut down on recycling, trash

By Mandy Mahan

In America, the average person produces around 1,642 pound of waste a year. While some of the waste produced will eventually biodegrade, and some waste is recycled, much of the waste produced fills oceans and landfills.

According to, “In 2017, for instance, the Environmental Protection Agency calculated that the total generation of municipal solid waste in the United States just that year was 267.8 million tons. Compared with 2015 levels, it was a 5.7 million increase. Altogether, the amount of waste generated affects the environment in multiple ways: its contribution to the worsening climate crisis, its negative impact on wildlife and the natural environment, and its detriment to our very own public health.”

As Earth Day approaches, many American’s celebrate the Earth, what it has given to us and the beauty it provides. It also encourages thinking on ways we can better care for our earth. One of the best ways this can be done is to make efforts to produce less waste. One way to do so is upcycling.

According to Merriam-Webster, upcycling is a verb meaning to recycle (something) in such a way that the resulting product is of a higher value than the original item; to create an object of greater value from a discarded object of lesser value. Following are some ideas for upcycling items, commonly disposed of, into useful items.

After using up all of the contents of a laundry detergent pod container, keep it handy in the laundry room and fill it with dryer lint. Dryer lint can be useful in many ways, such as a fire starter; compost; pet bedding for gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs or rats; stuffing for handmade pillows or stuffed animals; a way to soak up motor oil on your driveway or garage floor; or as an ingredient for making homemade paper.

After using up a can of green beans or soup, instead of tossing the empty can into the recycling bin, consider repurposing the can as a candle holder, planter, or storage. By drilling holes into the can in a pattern, and placing a tealight candle inside, a once boring aluminum can will add beauty to any part of your home, or give character to the center of your dining room table when friends and family gather for a meal. Adding paint to the outside of a can, or wrapping lace, twine or ribbon around it can turn the once borning empty can into beautiful vessels for houseplants, herbs, and flowers; or to store supplies such as pens, paint brushes, and more.

The mesh bags that many fruits and vegetables come in can be used instead of trashed. Bunch up the bag and use it as a loofah in the shower to exfoliate your skin, leaving it smooth and clean. The bag can also be wrapped directly around a bar of soap, for a built-in exfoliating washer.

These ideas are only some of the many. A simple Google search of “upcycling ideas,” can bring you to a plethora of ideas for how to use your would-be trash in useful ways. 

Posted on 2021 Apr 20