How to Do Crafts With Waste Materials

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Reusing waste materials is a fantastic way to cut down on your art and craft supply budget. It's also a way to save the environment by reusing items that may otherwise end up in a landfill. With a little bit of creativity and the ability to see objects not as they are but what they could be, crafting with recycled materials can be a cost-effective, rewarding experience that has the potential to yield unexpected results.

How to Do Crafts With Waste Materials
(POHIAN KHOUW/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Discarded items
  • Crafting tools
Step 1

Gather discarded items from your own garbage bin or that of your family, friends and neighbors. Keep an eye out on trash day for any interesting materials, such as old tiles, rusted metal objects, furniture, frames, broken glass, mirrors, picture frames or just about anything.

POHIAN KHOUW/Demand Media
Step 2

Formulate an idea for your discarded item. Use the pencil and paper to sketch out one or more ideas. Planning prior to crafting is not required, but recommended, and may serve to spark some ideas.

POHIAN KHOUW/Demand Media
Step 3

Use your crafting tools to execute the idea you have come up with for your recycled material. Sandpaper, paint, paper, glue, pliers, saws and any other number of tools may be required, depending upon your idea.

POHIAN KHOUW/Demand Media
Step 4

Step back, figuratively, from your craft project. This will allow you to determine whether the project is finished, needs more work, or is completely off track. Return to your project later with a fresh set of eyes and reassess the progress.

POHIAN KHOUW/Demand Media
Step 1

Create miniature seed starting pots from eggshells. Find eggs that have been cracked in half and fill them with soil and a seed during the beginning of spring. Paint the shells vibrant colors to make excellent starter pots.

Cracked even further and painted, egg shells can be used in much the same way as glass in a more ecologically friendly mosaic project.

POHIAN KHOUW/Demand Media
Step 2

Sand off the rough edges of soup cans to create unique storage containers for pencils, cosmetics, toiletries or any number of other small and easy to lose items. Paint the cans, or collage them with different papers and fibers.

Cut soda cans in half and flatten them for a piece of tin to create unique tags. Use a ballpoint pen that has run out of ink to emboss, or write on, the surface of the tin. Use the tags to decorate gifts or as markers in a garden.

POHIAN KHOUW/Demand Media
Step 3

When shipping items, consider boxes you already have on hand. Use the boxes from pre-prepared foods or meals that are also bagged, such as cereal, to ship items via the postal service. Cover the boxes with a brown paper bag or other suitable, non-patterend paper and use packing tape to secure.

POHIAN KHOUW/Demand Media
Step 4

Consider plastic water or soda bottles when in need of a vase or decorative pond. Cut the top from the bottle using household scissors. Peel the label from the bottle. Fill with water and flowers for use as a vase or fill with pebbles, moss and water for a miniature terrarium or decorative, indoor pond.

POHIAN KHOUW/Demand Media
Step 5

Glue glass to an old photo frame and paint any number of scenes on it with acrylic paint or the paint of your choosing. This can make a delightful marker of your house number, as the glass and frame will usually withstand a fair bit of weathering.

POHIAN KHOUW/Demand Media

Tips & Warnings

  • Not every craft project will be a success. One of the most invaluable, intangible tools you will need is a sense of flexibility. The ability to recover or adapt from a "mistake" is absolutely necessary.
  • See things as you would not normally see them. An old boot, with some paint and waterproof sealant, can easily become a plant pot. A discarded chair can be reupholstered and repainted. Glass items can be shattered, painted and used for mosaics.
  • When using crafting tools or working with unfamiliar supplies, use proper safety equipment and precautions. If you are working with an item of unknown composition, use the maximum safety precautions possible.

References

  • Secrets of Rusty Things: Transforming Found Objects Into Art; Michael de Meng; 2007
  • Rubbish!: Reuse Your Refuse; Kate Shoup; 2008
  • Re-Creative: 50 Projects for Turning Found Items Into Contemporary Design; Steve Dodds; 2006
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