Upcycling Ideas: Turning E-waste, Paper, and Packaging into Creative and Useful Items
Google searches for “upcycling” have increased steadily since 2010, and today it’s a trending topic in fashion, furniture, and home decor. Upcycling means turning something of no value into something useful that you can reuse or even resell. Various designers and artists around the world have taken to the trend, using reclaimed materials to create beautiful, eco-conscious art.
That being said, upcycling is not only for artists. Here’s how to upcycle scrap paper, packaging, and even e-waste to do your part for the environment.
Upcycling keeps waste materials out of landfills for longer. It also reduces our reliance on brand-new products, so we don’t need to extract as many raw materials from the earth. It can help you reduce your environmental impact and save money, plus it’s the perfect opportunity to flex your creative muscles or pick up a new skill.
Many successful small businesses start with upcycling! Rooibaard hot sauces once bottled its products in old Richelieu bottles, and the Recycled Flip Flop Studio began as a tiny trinket store at the V&A Waterfront.
Upcycling Ideas for e-Waste
- Use an old phone as a security camera
Many homeowners in South Africa spend thousands on security systems to protect their properties while they’re away. You can do this for free using an old cellphone with a working camera. All you have to do is install a security camera app like Alfred, Presence, or IP Webcam on your phone. Then install it on the old phone, link the two devices, and find the best spot for your new “camera”. You can even use it as a baby monitor!
- Turn an old tablet into a digital photo frame
To set up a digital photo frame on your tablet, you’ll need to create a dedicated folder for the photos you want to use. You can do this locally on your device or use Google Photos, Drive, or Dropbox. You should be able to start a slideshow using the photos in your folder. Downloading an app like LiveFrame (iOS) or Fotoo (Android) will help you set up autoplay and autostop features for your slideshow.
- Make a pet bed from an old TV or computer monitor
Corgi owners Jonathan and Lisa Havre started this DIY trend in 2017. If you are a cat owner, you know how much they love being in small spaces. Removing the glass and electronic parts from an old computer screen leaves a sturdy plastic shell you can turn into a cosy cat house. You can also do this with a vintage “box TV” if your pet needs more space. Once you’ve detached the electronics, finish the inside with some sponge, fabric, and pet toys! Remember to recycle the electronic bits safely by taking it to an eWASA collection point (scroll down for the handy map).
Upcycling Ideas for Paper and Packaging
- Organise your home with old boxes and jars
Glass jars make stylish and simple storage containers for your kitchen, garage, or study. Once you’ve finished a jar of jam, coffee, or gherkins, remove the label with acetone or turpentine, wash the container, and you’re ready to go. You can also use cardboard boxes to organise your kitchen cupboards, kids’ toys, or cable and charger collection. Covering boxes with fabric or coloured craft paper will give them a more polished, store-bought look.
- Use bubble wrap as window insulation
Did you know you can use bubble wrap to insulate your windows during winter? Sticking bubble wrap to your windows keeps your home warm and could even help you save electricity! Start by measuring the window panes and cutting the bubble wrap to size. Then, spray some water on the glass and gently press on the packaging bubble-side down. You don’t need any glue so it’s easy to peel off when the weather warms up.
- Make a cardboard cat scratching post
Corrugated cardboard makes an excellent scratching material for cats. It keeps their nails healthy and prevents them from destroying furniture around the house! To make a cardboard cat scratcher, you’ll need a few sturdy boxes. Cut the cardboard into strips of equal width and glue them together. Then, pack the strips into an open-sided box with the corrugated side up. You can place your DIY cat scratcher on the ground or mount it to the wall for easy access.
- Make waterproof baskets from plastic bags
You can make several household objects from plastic bags, including baskets, skipping ropes, mats, and dog leashes. The first step to any plastic crafting is making PLARN (plastic yarn). There are countless tutorials for this online, but the general idea is to cut the plastic bags into strips and knot them together to create stronger strands. Once you have your PLARN, you can weave, plait, roll, or twist it into almost any shape!
Upcycling and Sustainable Businesses
Incorporating upcycling into business is a must if we want to build a circular economy. Entrepreneurs can use scrap materials where possible to offset high production costs, while big corporations can run upcycling programmes to meet their EPR obligations. Contact us today to learn how we can help you launch an industry-specific upcycling project for your customers.