Household items you can reuse to reduce waste

By Ashmeeta Subra 20 June 2024

Some great ways to reuse items and packaging at home, to help us avoid, reduce and reuse.

According to the National Waste Report, Australian households and local governments generated 14 mega tonnes (Mt) of waste in 2020-2021. This includes everyday materials such as food waste, packaging, paper, plastics and other household items.  

Australians are getting better at recycling household packaging like aluminium cans, bottles, jars and newspapers, thereby reducing the amount sent to landfills. By reusing packaging and other items, we can further decrease waste and save money and resources that would otherwise be spent on new purchases.  

Below are some fun and easy approaches to reusing and recycling common items at home, preventing them from being wasted in landfill and finding new uses for them. 

  1. Get yourself a worm farm and feed it all your food scraps. One kilogram of worms can eat and recycle one kilogram of food daily, giving you nutritious worm castings for your plants and veggies. 

    Organic worm bin

  2. Reuse old milk jugs or bottles to store used cooking oil (after cooling them down) and drop them off at a recycler that accepts oil. Find a recycler here

  3. Create ice blocks for your esky by filling up old milk cartons with water and freezing them.  

  4. Save egg cartons and toilet paper rolls for a convenient and biodegradable seedling pot for growing seeds indoors or directly in your garden. Watch this video to learn more. 

  5. Store your food scraps temporarily in an old ice cream container before putting them in your worm farm or compost. This can make a good alternative to a kitchen caddy, with the lid preventing your kitchen from getting too smelly! 

  6. Collect branches, leaves and other bits and bobs from the garden to make decorations or other bushcraft with. You can even arrange them in a vase or pot and then hang on some decorations as an alternative Christmas tree! 

  7. If your pillow has become too flat, consider option for reuse rather than putting it straight into the bin. By folding it over and giving it a new cushion cover you can have a new and improved one! Another option is to reuse as bedding for pets. 

  8. Got old clothes you don't want anymore that remain in good condition? Check with friends and fami

    ly if there are pieces they could use. If not, there are plenty of charity shops that do want them. Give your local op shops a call to check or visit the Recycling Near You directory to find other reuse and recycling services.  

  9. Save bread bags and other food or newspaper bags to use as bin liners for your trash or doggie-doo bags when walking the dog. 

  10. Make your own gift wrap! Use the comic pages from your local Sunday newspaper, magazines or comics to wrap presents. Kids (and even adults) love it! You can also use things like dish towels that double as an additional present.  

  11. Clear plastic lids can be placed under oil jars in the cupboard or aerosols in the bathroom to prevent oil or rust marks on your shelves. 

  12. Old shoeboxes can be useful as storage and organisation boxes for keeping items like random keepsakes, stationery or socks all in one place! 

    Shoe box reuse

  13. Save old lip balm pots and small toiletry containers. Refill these from your large bottles to make travel packs. 

  14. Glass jars or take-away containers make great storage containers for cake decorations, loose leaf teas, buttons, spices and much more! 

  15. Save your toilet paper rolls and make star ornaments for your Christmas tree. Watch our reel to learn how. 

  16. Fill glass jars with some soil and plant your favourite herbs. Place them in the corner of a sunny windowsill for a cute indoor herb garden. 

  17. Make book dividers or paper organisers with cereal boxes! Simply cut the boxes at an angle and cover them with decorative paper. 

  18. Save empty kitchen paper towel rolls and use them as a core for wrapping paper rolls to keep them from unravelling. Cut paper towel rolls in half and they’re the perfect size to store loose yarn or rubber bands lying around. 

  19. Old containers like sunscreen bottles, pringles cans or shampoo bottles can be repurposed to hide valuable items like cash, jewellery or keys when you're at the beach. Simply clean out any remaining contents and cut out larger holes if necessary. Just don’t forget your valuables are in there! 

  20. Don’t throw your old toothbrushes away. Use

    them to clean sneakers or small, hard-to-reach areas around your home. They help get into every corner with each scrub! 

  21. Put your steel bottle tops and jam jar lids into an old steel can. When the can

    is half full, squash the top together to hold the contents in, then put it in your recycling bin to ensure the whole lot gets recycled. 

    Steel can
  22. Got an old wash basin with cracks at the base? Reuse for outdoor planting by filling with soil and repotting any vegetables or herbs that you’ve propagated.  

  23. Add used coffee or tea leaves to your compost pile or sprinkle them directly onto the soil as fertiliser. 

  24. Have old, faded tote bags that you don’t use anymore? Hang one by your door to store reusable grocery bags. You can also repurpose them into beach bags for carrying sandy or wet items. 

  25. Grab a pair of scissors and cut up old bed sheets into rags for cleaning counters and other household surfaces. 

For more information, lessons plans and fun recycling activities for home or work, visit  National Recycling Week

Ashmeeta Subra
With background in international relations and marketing communications, Ashmeeta is excited to use her skills to encourage positive environmental actions through Planet Ark. She believes that by taking small actions, we can help make a big difference and be good stewards of our planet. Outside of work, she loves spending time in nature and enjoying downtime at the beach.