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10 Projects Made from Rubbish that you will actually want to keep

Here at Upcycle My Stuff we regularly scour the internet and beyond for ways to reuse your rubbish (you might prefer to call it trash or garbage depending on where you are from!).

When we talk about literal trash – as in the stuff left over from consuming other products (plastic bottles, cereal boxes, etc) – often the suggestions for what to reuse them for are not that much better than the trash you started off with!

So this is our attempt to collect together ideas for projects made from rubbish that you would actually want to keep and display in your home or on your person.

Feel free to comment below if you think we’ve got it way wrong! Upcycling as we always say, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, so we expect some debate on this one!

P.S. – this post was originally published in 2019 and it has now been fully updated so there are now actually far more than 10 projects made from rubbish listed – in case you are counting!

Plastic Bottle Stool

This upcycling project might be a little dangerous, as it might actually encourage you to buy more large bottles of soda!

The basic idea is that you can use multiple large soda bottles attached together as the basis for a stool. You can then use cotton batting on top and around and sew a cover with leftover scrap fabric or an old sweater to make a truly upcycled footstool.

There is a little bit more too it though as apparently the strength of the stool is greatly improved if you actually cut the top off of one bottle and insert a second non-cut bottle lid down inside it. So you end up with a bottle with a bottom at each end. A bit different to the photo above.

I really struggled to find a good how to guide for this and I didn’t have enough soda bottles to try it out myself (see below for my alternative version). The best one I could find isn’t in English but you can google translate if you are super keen. Here is the link.

Footstool from a Plastic Tub

DIY footstool from an upcycled plastic tub
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

I actually drew inspiration from the stool idea with the plastic bottles above to make my own footstool using an empty plastic tub (that used to hold Epsom salts), a whole lot of scrap fabric trimmings, leftover quilt batting and a William Morris fabric remnant. You can find the whole step by step DIY footstool tutorial here.

Bracelet from a Plastic Bottle

If you make the first stool above with the two bottomed technique you will still have some bits of plastic bottle leftover, so here are a few more ideas for them, including these bracelet bangles.

There are a few variations for making bracelets from plastic bottles, one that we almost included was about wrapping the bits of plastic with yarn (we thought it would work better with scrap fabric), but then we saw the video below from Innova Crafts and frankly it won the plastic bottle bracelet craft competition in our minds. It even uses up old nail polish as well – double upcycle!

Some tutorials for this will show you to use the nail polish on the outside of the bangle, this doesn’t look as polished (get it?:)), I’d definitely go for using the nail polish on the under side to leave the outside of your bracelet smooth and glossy from the plastic.

Plastic Bottle Earrings

If you have some plastic bottle scraps leftover after you’ve made your bangles, try making these super simple earrings. These use a similar technique to the bangles above. You cut a strip of plastic, seal the edges with an iron, and make a hole through each end for the jewellery findings (the earring hook). You can use a leather punch to make a nice round hole for the finding loop or you could create a hole just big enough for the loop with a large needle. We think they look pretty cute for something made from rubbish!

Vase made from a Plastic Bottle

Here is another project made from a simple plastic bottle. This time a bubble bath bottle. This is a quick 15 minute upcycled craft idea to turn a plastic bottle you would have recycled into a pretty vase that hold’s it’s own next to it’s glass counterparts. The Plastic Bottle Vase Tutorial even includes a fun hack for removing sticky labels from plastic bottles without chemicals or soaking overnight.

Magazine Table

This table made from magazine’s is similar idea to the plastic bottle footstool, but you do need a bit more supporting bits for this one. As you can see from the photo the table is sat on wooden board with castor wheels with a glass table top above and a belt securing the magazines together. We love the belt but we feel like you would need to secure the table top to the magazine’s in some way. We feel like this idea could easily be adapted. You don’t ‘need’ the castor wheels unless you really want to move it around a lot so you could try using cardboard or other scrap wood for the base that isn’t such a specific shape. You could decoupage the cardboard with more magazine pages to keep the look uniform too. For the top, an off cut of wood (or an old chopping board) sanded down and oiled maybe?

Magazine Art

If the table above sounds too much like engineering to you, how about going arty with your old magazines? There are of course lots of other upcycle ideas with rolled up magazines, like making beads out of them for jewellery for example, but we really like these magazine murals made with different coloured rolls of strips of magazines.

We think the bigger you go with this the more dramatic it will look. Feature wall anyone?

If you want to start small something like the examples above of an animal or a child’s initial would look great in a colourful nursery or kid’s room. To do it just draw an outline of the shape you want and cut your strips of magazine to the correct length to fill the space. use cardboard for the backing and a glue stick to attach your rolls of magazine.

Plastic Bag Basket

Did you know you can crochet with plastic yarn made from old plastic bags? Actually if you already know that then you will also already know that the lingo that gets used for plastic yarn is actually ‘plarn’. We found a simple tutorial on how to make plarn over on Amanda’s Happy Hearth. We’ve seen versions of this with braided or coiled bags instead of crocheting and they don’t turn out as well.

The first picture is probably more realistic (as you can see its been made with different coloured bags), but if you are patient and sort your plastic bags by colour you could make something like the grey one and we reckon no one will guess it is made from rubbish. If you already have crocheting with regular yarn mastered, perhaps this is your next exciting project to try? This project isn’t a quick upcycle by any means, but you’ll have earned your eco stripes by the end of it for sure!

Dish Scrubber Made from Plastic Yarn

Along a similar line to the ideas above, one of our guest bloggers, Gilly Jakeway of My Green Simple Living gave us a tutorial for how to make a dish scrubber out of plastic yarn made out of old carrier bags.

Cereal Box Magazine Files

cereal box magazine holders
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

We like the idea of making these magazine files out of cereal boxes and then using them to store more bits of scrap paper for you to use in other upcycling projects.

Clearly they would also be super handy for a home office, family mail sorting, or indeed holding magazines as the name suggests.

This is a super simple one, just cut to size and either decoupage on some attractive paper or buy some sticky back contact paper for an even quicker re-design. If you want to get super organised you can add some labels like I did when I made my own magazine holders from cereal boxes – the full tutorial is here.

Fabric Covered Cardboard Box

We all end up with too many cardboard boxes, whether they are old amazon boxes, diaper/nappy boxes, or shoe boxes. There are several ways you can turn these boxes into attractive storage boxes by covering them with contact paper, decoupaging or covering them in fabric. The contact paper version is definitely the easiest but the fabric covered ones probably win the prize for the most transformed.

We tried our own version on a small kids shoe box to use as an entryway box to dump keys and other bits and bobs. Lets just say it didn’t go to plan! You can read our Hot Glue Hot Mess Story here. If you want another way to cover cardboard boxes try our tutorial on using a shoe box as a gift box with wrapping paper.

Photo Display Board from Cardboard

This is another cardboard based upcycling project. In this DIY I used some leftover cardboard and some leftover fabric to make a photo display board for my son’s room. I really like how it turned out and how cheap it was! You can find the Cardbaord Photo Display Board Tutorial here.

2-in-1 Cardboard Kid’s Playhouse

two cardboard playhouses train and rocketship
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

This fun idea is courtesy of one of our regular writers, Charlie Miller. She upcycled a large cardboard box into a 2-in-1 rocket ship/Percy the Train kid’s playhouse! What a cool Mom! She detailed all her steps to make these two playhouses out of one cardboard box here.

Kid’s Bookshelves from Cardboard Boxes

These homemade cardboard bookshelves are much sturdier than you would imagine. I managed to make a super customised bookcase for the corner of my son’s room using the cardboard boxes in our recycling bin and some leftover wallpaper.

Junk Mail Colouring Book

junk journal colouring book
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Another fun project for kids from upcycled rubbish is a colouring book made from junk mail. You might think this is one of those projects made from rubbish that you will eventually want to throw out again but it’s actually a really compact and handy way of saving a keepsake of your child’s early drawings. How many of us really store every picture that get sent home from school or day care? I even upcycled some old kid’s magazines to give mine a Thomas the Tank Engine theme for my nephew! You can find the Junk Mail Colouring Book Tutorial here.

Soft Toy Tidy from Plastic Diaper Refill Rings

Yet another project made from rubbish for kids is this soft toy tidy made from used up plastic diaper refill rings, leftover fabric and twine. So easy and so cute – it acts as wall decor as well as stopping that rubbish going to landfill!

Tin Can Decorations

This isn’t one specific suggestion but more a nod in a certain direction. These leaf and star shapes have all been made with aluminium cans (thin ones like coke cans for example).

The first photo is obviously earrings but the second two could be decorations for lots of things, Christmas, present toppers, or use a bunch of these leaf or star shapes to make an outdoor wind chime or a door wreath. You can paint them with craft paint or spray paint or even use gold leaf to change the look of these and amend them to any occasion. You could even go to town and decoupage up a storm to totally change the look of them if you want. Here is a super detailed tutorial over on Craftster about how to make the star ornaments. The basic techniques could be adapted to make other shapes as well.

Trinket Bowls from Plastic Takeaway Containers

These two trinket bowls – for jewellery, keys, and other knick knacks – were made from plastic takeaway containers that definitely otherwise would have been destined for the rubbish bin or the recycling box! Some fun decoupage and gold leaf turned them into anthropologie style decorative items that are useful as well. You can find the full Trinket Bowls from Plastic Takeaway Containers Tutorial here.

Valentine’s Love Token Project Made from Rubbish

projects made from rubbish - DIY valentines day gift
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

This project made from rubbish is probably one of the more debatable on the list in terms of upcycle projets you will definitely want to keep. But, it depends entirely on who gives it to you, as it’s meant to be a Valentine’s token of love.

It’s made with an empty vanilla bottle, old wrapping paper and some thin cardboard packaging. Find the tutorial for how to make one for your sweetheart here.

Tea Bag Art

Lots of people have heard that you can use tea and coffee grounds to fertilise your garden, but did you know you can reuse actual tea bags as well? We vaguely knew they must be useful for something but when we started looking into it we were enthralled by the amount of people making lovely miniature art with old dried teabags. We found a lovely tutorial from Lynne Hope about how to dry out old teabags for use with in art projects and the different types of paint and other materials you can use to create mini paintings and prints. We love the idea of all the things you could do with teabags from bookmarks, to gift tags to mini paintings and collages.

Don’t forget to leave us a comment below to tell us if these projects lived up to the title? Are these projects made out of rubbish something you would actually want to keep or not? Have you seen better ideas? Send them our way!

If you want to try one of the ideas in this post Pin it for later!

upcycling projects made from rubbish

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Thursday 23rd of June 2022

Amazing ideas really, love them all and specially magazine art picture !!!

Kristen Hubert

Tuesday 28th of June 2022

Thanks so much!

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