reusing waste cardboard

Ways to Reuse Household Waste

This article looks a some ways to reuse household waste before it is sent to landfill or recycled. A general change in attitude to recycling has been significant over the last thirty years or so. Over time, I have become much more conscious of how I dispose of rubbish, packaging and unwanted items.

On a day to day basis, habits of recycling in our home have become routine. Although some of this is imposed upon us by the local councils household rubbish disposal policies, much more of it has changed as I have become more aware of the impact of my immediate and wider environment.

Local recycling

Here in Monmouthshire UK, the council allows us to put out two black rubbish bags per fortnight. However, these are for non-recyclable items like the thin plastic wrappers that are put on food stuffs. Actually that’s almost the only thing that goes into the black rubbish bag in our house as we have developed careful recycling and reusing practices.

Recycling our waste

We are also allowed to put as many recycling bags as we like. Sorting our recycling into paper and cardboard or plastic, metal and glass or food recycling. We are pleased that we manage to send so little to be recycled and to landfill because it means that we are reusing it here at home. Additionally, there are many ways to reduce the amount of plastic we use in our homes. We often send only one part-filled black bag per fortnight.

How to reuse items at home

Paper

  • Shred confidential paperwork. Use in loo roll middles as below or alternatively, add to the compost heap.
  • Use shredded or crumpled paper in the bottom of bean trenches to help retain moisture.

Cardboard

  • Flatten large cardboard boxes to use in the garden as a sheet mulch.
  • Tear up small cardboard boxes to go into the recycling bag, add to the compost heap or use as firelighters.
  • Cardboard inner tubes from loo rolls can be stuffed with shredded paper to make firelighters.
  • Fill cardboard inner tubes from loo rolls with potting mix or compost to sow seeds in.

Glass

  • Glass jar and bottles are ideal for homemade jams, chutneys, pickles and relishes.
  • Reuse empty wine bottles for homemade cordials and wine.
  • Use jars as candle holders for tealights.

Water

  • Collect rainwater to use in the garden.
  • Water the garden and flower pots with water from condensing units. However, avoid overuse if you add fabric conditioner to your laundry.

Foodstuffs

  • Egg shells can be washed, heated in the microwave for two minutes or baked in the oven (when it’s on for something else) to kill off bacteria. Crush and add to the compost bin for very slow release of calcium.
  • Alternatively, put clean eggshells in a jar with vinegar to convert the calcium to a usable form for plants. Dilute well before adding to the compost heap.
  • Compost kitchen waste. Raw vegetable peelings can go into the compost heap. Cooked foods into the food recycling bin.
  • Herbs bought at the supermarket. Buy them in pots, they often cost the same as cut herbs, but use what is needed and then transfer the plant into the garden. Wash and reuse the pot to grow something else.

Plastics and polystyrene

  • Fill plastic milk containers and large plastic bottles with water. Use in the garden to weigh down weed suppressing membrane and cardboard. However, when they are no longer needed they can be emptied, crushed and recycled into the council recycling bags.
  • Reuse pots with lids that contained dairy products for portion sized containers in the freezer.
  • Save pots without lids, make a hole in the base and use as pots for sowing seeds.
  • Use polystyrene type packaging materials to line the lower half of the green house in the winter to insulate it.

Clothes

  • Store cabbages and onions in laddered tights or stockings to hang in a cool, airy and dark place.
  • Send clothes that are reusable go to a charity shop.
  • Worn out cotton, linen, wool or silk clothes can be cut into small pieces and added to the compost heap.
  • Use leather belts which are beyond going to the charity shop as tree ties.

Other materials

Ash from the wood burners goes into the compost heap or around fruiting plants like tomatoes.

Open old feather pillows and cushions and add the feathers to the compost heap.

Wood off-cuts (from putting up shelves and battens for curtains) make good kindling or garden markers.

Save string and baling twine. They are useful for a hundred and one purposes in the garden.

Save candles which have burnt down to a small stub are saved for use as firelighters. 

Include cotton, linen, silk and wool fluff from the tumble dryer in the compost bin.

Add the contents of the vacuum cleaner bag and sweepings from the hard floors to the compost heap.

Put hair from hairbrushes into nets from citrus fruits and hang outside because wild birds use it in their nests.

Take a moment to think

Before I throw anything in the bin, I pause for a moment and just think about whether there’s another use for it before it goes into the black bin bag. Recycling plastics, glass and metal tins has become habitual and whilst I used to think it was a nuisance to spend time separating everything out, we have now devised an easy system in the kitchen so it takes no time at all.

To make recycling the household waste as simple as possible, we use a waste bin system.

Our waste bin system

The non-recyclable rubbish bin has a swing top lid on it because it prevents flies from getting into it. The two recycling bins are open topped so I can easily drop paper and card into one and plastic, glass and metal into the other.

One side of the kitchen sink I have a medium size container that I line with a paper bag for peelings and food waste that will go to the compost bin. On the other side of the sink is a small lidded container for food waste that can’t go into the compost. However, it is collected by the local authority to make biofuel.

It takes us no longer to put items into one bin or another. Therefore the only thing that takes more effort is to think about how we can reuse the household waste. Or to wash plastic containers out before they go into the recycling bags, because this prevents flies being attracted to it.

Wastefulness and reducing our impact

Looking back at my wastefulness in the past, I feel a bit ashamed about just how much I sent to landfill. But that was partly the way of the world I was living in – instant, fast and disposable. And because I was less informed, less aware and less in touch with my immediate and wider environment. 

Small changes and our ways to reuse household waste

I don’t know if the little bit that we do to reduce our own impact on the environment will help reduce pollution levels, save energy and other resources, but I am sure that by all of us doing our little bit there will be a reduction in the negative impact we are having on our world. But I do know that we are spending less on buying bits and pieces for our home as we save and reuse household waste, and we both enjoy seeing less going out of our bank accounts each month.

If you have other ways to reuse household waste, please leave comment so that we build an even better guide to making the most of the stuff in our homes.

About the author

Liz works full time on the homestead, Byther Farm, and also as a content creator in various media. Her love of gardening started as a small child, but blossomed when she left home. In her own garden, she found joy in propagating plants and growing food for her family.

At her happiest when pottering in the garden, Liz now manages the half acre fruit and vegetable gardens and food forest . Her first book, Grounded – A Gardener’s Journey to Abundance and Self-Sufficiency was published in February 2021.

30 Ways to Reuse Household Waste
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4 thoughts on “30 Ways to Reuse Household Waste

  • May 20, 2021 at 9:57 am
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    Thanks for the tips. I don’t currently have a compost heap in the traditional sense though I will start a cold heap once I can get myself into gear. I am currently in a position health wise a bit similar to yours when you started your small holding adventure. I am about to start worm composting so that the food waste we produce can go into that. I used a bokashi waste system for a while but think that worms will do a better job. I have started producing my own chemical free cleaning products. I try to buy in bulk where possible for things like wild bird food. I have done a great deal of reading about sustainability and reducing my carbon footprint but of course its putting it all into practice that is the important thing. I have a relatively small garden but plan for it to become productive and still remain somewhere I love to be. Good luck with your move I hope it goes really well.

    Reply
  • May 19, 2021 at 8:19 pm
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    Cut plastic milk containers into strips and use as plant labels – I never use anything else…

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  • May 17, 2021 at 5:04 pm
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    I wouldn’t use the polystyrene outdoors or in the polytunnel. They get chewed by rodents and then you end up with little bits of it everywhere. Also the fluff from the tumble dryer needs to be from natural fabrics. Most modern clothes have plastic in them and you end up spreading micro plastics into nature . But every little bit helps. I find that the best way I control my rubbish is by buying less and choosing products with little or no packaging

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    • May 19, 2021 at 7:49 pm
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      I agree, buying less and choosing products with little or no packaging is definitely the best way to control the amount of rubbish. We are constantly being bombarded by encouragement to consume more and often not necessary or needed.
      Thanks for the article Liz, some good ideas for reusing as much as possible.
      Good luck with your move

      Reply

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