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Creative ways to reuse and upcycle

Updated: Jan 6, 2021

Blog by Sophie and Luca

Sustainable Merton Community Champions

As Sustainable Merton Community Champions, we are passionate about waste! We are always looking for new schemes and ideas to recycle items that are traditionally not collected as part of the kerbside recycling, to ensure that they stay out of landfill.

Here are five tricky-to-recycle items and some creative ways of reusing and upcycling them…

Old clothes

A public survey by WRAP suggests that 2 in 5 UK citizens had a clear-out during lockdown, with the majority of items being unwanted textiles including a predicted 67 million items of clothing! Whilst textile waste is not always covered by the doorstep collection, there are so many ways you can ensure it doesn’t go to landfill; via charity shops, textile banks, retail take-back schemes, or charity collection bags. Whichever method you choose, check that the service is open and help support them by never leaving bags of clothes in front of closed charity shops or full recycling banks.

Whilst charity shops are a great option as they have a variety of strategies for your donations, why not flex your creative muscles by trying to create something new out of your unloved items?

  • An old jumper with worn out elbows and cuffs could make a cozy cushion cover: watch how to do it here.

  • Or for a bigger project you could turn all your old t-shirts into a gorgeous rag rug for your home like this one.

  • For more ideas the website is a fantastic resource for minimising textile waste and has lots of upcycling suggestions.


If, like us, you have enjoyed a couple of bottles of wine during lockdown and have found yourself with a stash of corks that you don’t know what to do with, then here is an easy craft project - turn them into stamps to decorate gift tags and fabric. You could even go one step further, incorporating old unused buttons on top to create an interesting design. There are lots of tutorials online on how to create these lovely stamps: check out this how-to. There is also a wealth of inspiration on Pinterest for items to decorate with your new cork stamps.

Other options for disposing of your cork collection include; carefully cutting them into thin slices to use as floor protectors for heavy furniture, cutting them up for use in plant mulch, or popping them in your compost bin.

Children’s toys

Another clear-out favourite are children’s toys. They are often hard to recycle due to their mix of materials. If your toys still have some life left in them then donating them to charity to let other children play with them is a great option. However, if they are beyond repair, they needn’t go to landfill. They can make great craft materials to create something new and fun with your children whilst encouraging them to become mini-recyclers.


There are some really creative ideas out there making recycling fun including:

  • These quirky storage jar lids using broken doll and figurine limbs seen here.

  • Create your own toy laboratory encouraging your child to make a new unique character out of different parts of old toys, a great way to fuel their creativity and reduce landfill.

  • Or make cute accessories using old bits of toys, a few hair bands and a glue gun just like these.


Both disposable razors and razors with disposable blades have a longer life than you might expect.

The life of your razor can be extended with the help of a pair of jeans and a leather strap or belt. The technique is the same regardless of the fabric.

Pick up the leg of a pair of jeans, keep the leg straight (you can hang up the waist in the bathroom or in your room). Hold the end with your hand and simply stoke the razor along the entire length of the blue jean for 10 to 20 strokes and then switch the direction - SEE HERE

This is like using a straight blade on a leather strap or a used leather belt. Personally, I follow the latter and it works!

If you are using razors with disposable heads remember to put the blades in the bin. Wrap the heads in waste paper and secure the package with tape to dispose of them safely.

Coffee capsules

A creative way to reuse coffee capsules is to combine two pods to make a mini vase or pod that can be used to plant cacti, succulents and Stone Rose succulents. They are an ideal design option for small nooks, windowsills or to create a mini-garden!

Watch this video to see how it's done!


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