Article - Creative upcycling: from trash to treasure

Creative upcycling: from trash to treasure

Next week is Recycling Week in New Zealand, and because waste pollution is such an urgent issue for the planet, it’s an initiative we love. People are consuming more things packaged in single use plastics and landfills are being filled at ever faster rates.

Recycling schemes are great, but they aren’t the only way to cut down on packaging and waste. Re-using things around the house also reduces what goes to landfill and it’gets a fantastic way to get the whole family involved in creative activities that put the future of the planet first.

Re-using and upcycling is also a chance to de-clutter and avoid the stress that comes with a messy home.

The Recycling Week Website has a section on living waste free, where it encourages us to think about the ‘6 Rs’. Two of these are re-using anything you can, and re-homing anything you don’t need.

Give it away

One of the seven days of Recycling Week is Spring Clean Sunday. We’d suggest doing a stocktake to find out what’s gathering dust in your house. My mother’s rule was if you haven’t worn clothes for a season or two, you’re not going to wear them again. And most people wear only a few of their clothes the majority of any given week, so you don’t need as many clothes as you think - perhaps 40 or 50 pieces at most.

You could also think about giving your unwanted household items to an op shop, city mission or another charity. And check out sites like and Ask Share Give, because they can help you find a home for the things others might value more than you.

You could even make some money from unwanted goods by selling them on sites likes Trade Me, eBay and Otherwise a garage sale can bring in some extra cash.

Get creative

We recently ran a Facebook giveaway with prizes from Hello Again Recycled Products, a Kiwi company that specialises in making new from old. They’ve got coasters made from vintage books, garden pots and furniture made from tyres, recycled glass jewellery, and shopping bags that come from used grain sacks that have been turned into plastic. These are great examples of how a bit of lateral thinking can make something new out of what might otherwise be thrown in the bin and add to the growing waste problem.

This giveaway drew out some great upcycling ideas from those who entered, and we wanted to share them with you.

Catherine Barker turned her old laundry tub into a herb garden, while Victoria Hoete-Dodd found another use for a polystyrene fish bin when she discovered it wasn’t accepted for recycling where she lives. She made it into a mini vege garden.


Barbara Haddock uses old gumboots to plant flowers in, and Geo May told us about this great recycled window greenhouse, using old windows and frames salvaged from demolition sites.

Donna Sharee Larsen plans to make this old chimney top into a hanging planter, while Becky Wilson turned a piece of ply into a kids’ blackboard instead of putting it in a skip.


And we got heaps of other great ideas:

  • Use an old teapot as a birdbath and the lid as a bath or feeder
  • Use 50kg molasses tubs to grow potatoes
  • Make a fire pit out of the inside of an old washing machine
  • Turn pallets into a treehouse or a compost bin
  • Plant veges in an old paddling pool
  • Using an old mosquito bed net to cover plants like strawberries
  • Turn plastic bottles into a bird feeder or a watering can

We love the way some people re-use our ecostore packaging too. One person told us they use our boxes to transport seedlings, and another one re-uses our soap boxes to store their child’s Lego.

One of our Pinterest boards is all about creative ways to upcycling and re-use. Check it out here:

And do leave us a comment telling us about the everyday things you’ve upcycled.

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