How can I reuse or recycle bashed up playing cards?

Playing cardsWe’ve had an email from Josh:

Hi, I’ve got one for you, playing cards. I play a lot of poker with my buddies and our cards get bashed up pretty quickly, the edges bent over primarily so we can’t play with them anymore. They’re plastic (?) coated so can’t be recycled with cardboard, right?

Just because you can’t play with them any more though doesn’t mean that they’re at the end of their useful life.

Yes, you’re right that they can’t be recycled as paper if they’re plastic coated – but they’d make fun bookmarks, the non-face cards could be used for shopping lists and if some still have strong edges, you could drag them between keyboard keys to pull out the stupid amount of cat hair and sesame seeds collected in the gaps (maybe that’s just my keyboard).

Any other reuses?

They can also be included in a number of crafts/decoration projects – for example, they could cheer up dull storage boxes, and could also be used as a fun way to differentiate the boxes or label them if they need to be in sequence. Some brilliant people have turned them into business card wallets, MP3 players/iPod cases, or even a fantastic bag. They can also be used for any type of small scale papercrafts that require a light card.

Any other suggestions on what to make from them?

Best Suggestions

  • Pass them on: Even if they’re too damaged for high stakes poker, they might still be fine for other card games – solitaire or snap – so add them to the kids’ toy box. Alternately, teachers and other educators sometimes use cards in lessons – for assigning roles or randomising groups – and might welcome supplies.
  • Reuse: They can be used for numerous craft/home decoration projects, for example, cover photo frames, notebooks or even tabletops with them, then varnish them to give a protective finish. Or they can be used for any small scale paper crafts that use a light card.
  • See the comments below for more suggestions and ideas

(Photo by mordoc)

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28 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle bashed up playing cards?”


  1. Wouter says:

    You can use them as warning signs at corners in your house. See the website for an example (atelier-V).

  2. Bobbie says:

    Now, no laughing ok? I use playing cards and other stiff cardboards along with a glass or cup to trap and release insects from my house. It works great. Just cover the insect with the cup and hold firm while sliding the card under the cup. Hold the card on the cup while carrying outside to release. he he.

    p.s. I seldom have insects in my house and have the best control system ever!

  3. Peg says:

    I love to make card houses!! I’m 66 years, and just haven’t grown up. Not sure that I really want to, either. My grandson likes to try making his own cardhouse.

  4. nancy says:

    make cameo charms to hook on to a necklace, with fun ideas for both sides of the charms.

  5. Tape or glue these to decorate a case (poker chip case, guitar case, a table, something flat). It’ll look cool and, if taped over, be waterproof.

  6. Michael says:

    Or…I just stumbled on this one…

    http://www.cardstacker.com/gallery.html

  7. Autumn says:

    I tackled this subject on Crafting a Green World, you can make tote bags from them too!
    http://craftingagreenworld.com/2008/02/27/no-limit-holdem-make-a-playing-card-bag/

  8. PainChaud says:

    coasters?

  9. gabby says:

    last year i used playing cards to make handmade valentines cards for friends and family with phrases like “you’re the king of my heart” or “my heart is 4 you”

  10. Rebecca says:

    Not sure if this would work, but could you try laminating them to flatten them out again and make them durable? That way you could keep using them. Don’t know if they’d be too thick to laminate though …

  11. vallihaha says:

    decoupage decoupage decoupage. cover up shabby looking waste baskets, boxes,trays, small furniture pieces, etc. by glueing them all over in a random fashion. After the glue dries, use a decoupage sealer or a clear varnish to seal the whole piece.

    • Andreaaaaaah says:

      that would also double to work at a theme room if a person has a poker nite or bar in there place.. i did have a craft book that showed how to make a curtain using cards and paper clips/wire.. havent attempted it but it could work out..

  12. Steven says:

    Many teachers use them to form ad-hoc groups (shuffle, hand out or let students draw, have those with the same rank form a group). [I've seen this done in high school math in the U.S.] So you could find a teacher to donate them to.

  13. E. says:

    all great ideas – except… like the original poster – i get through lots of cards (am a magician!) – would love to just make them disappear but… doesn’t work like that…
    also hundreds of coasters and bookmarks… is a bit pointless really – won’t anywhere take them for recycling into something else?

    • Heather says:

      My bf (and many of our friends!) are magicians (magi?) too :)
      Which is why I am looking for fun crafts with cards!

  14. Megan says:

    I had a bunch I found awhile ago and I used them to decorate my room. I taped them on the wall and made them in a pattern where they looked like they were falling, and abouve all of them I put one on top of cardboard to make it look like a deck that they were coming from…

  15. S says:

    Try this option. The playing cards are about the size needed and a good replacement for ‘card’ stock. If you make these, write back with success. I haven’t tried it yet but have the same situation only we make pinochle decks from the regular playing card deck and have all the cards below the 9 for two decks.

    http://scrapbookingboutique.blogspot.com/2008/03/falling-down-sewing-kit.html

  16. Oraxia says:

    http://craftingagreenworld.com/2008/12/31/seven-ways-to-upcycle-greeting-cards/

    You could probably do the same thing with the playing cards, they would just be smaller.

    Also, if you make small notebooks, perhaps the cards would make for good covers?

    One way to perhaps cut down on the number of cards you go through would be to always buy the same type of deck, so they all match and then replace the cards in the “working” deck as they get bent. Obviously, if face cards get marked up more often or something like that, it won’t save you, but based on the assumption that damage is done randomly, it could help make things last a bit?

  17. Yes you can use them as the covers of small notebooks
    check out here:
    http://vertes-et-mures.blogspot.com/2008/11/que-faire-un-vieux-jeu-de-cartes.html
    click on the link to CraftyPod for the instructions how to make them (instructions are in English)

  18. E. says:

    I like the idea for putting them on the wall, tipping out of a giant pack of cards – gonna do that… erm… when i have my own house! thanks!x.

  19. Erica says:

    Purchase a small roll of flat magnet tape, cut out corner sections or whatever you like, grap some hot glue, and you have fridge magnets :)

  20. addy says:

    you could glue them onto a picture frame or a box, or tape them together and use them as a place mat. there’s probably something on the internet about how to make them into a wallet

  21. Anonymous says:

    Decorate a tray with them.
    Play a psychic.
    Make a garland.
    Use as bookmarks, gift tags, scrap-booking pieces.
    Turn into a congratulation card by gluing on a sturdy paper.
    Use images as patterns for a quilt or a painting.
    Stick a king on a man’s restroom door and a queen on lady’s. :)
    Glue your business card on a back and give away. I bet people will remember those. :)
    Write with them “Will you merry me?” plea for your beloved.
    Gather a collection of card images and frame them.
    Glue them on a lamp shade.

  22. mendy says:

    Glue the stack of cards together, BUT LEAVE TWO OUT. cut a small ractangle or square, or however big you want it to be. Wait to dry. now u have a secret compartment :D use the two leftover cards to put over to conceal

  23. Heather says:

    I once took an old battered deck of my (magician) bf’s cards and made a “52 Reasons Why I Love You” book for him.
    I then got a paper mache box from Michaels to store it in :D



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