How can I reuse or recycle lunch boxes?

We’ve had an email from Sarah C:

My kids always need new lunchboxes, what can I do with the old ones?

The hard plastic square ones I used to have when I was little were good kid-size storage boxes so maybe encourage them to use their previous year’s boxes as storage – for pens, letters & birthday cards, small toys – in their bedrooms. If they’re a bit scruffy, they can probably be recovered or painted, and you could make old fashioned suitcase straps & buckles if the plastic catch has broken.

Insulated cooler bags seem to be more common that those though now and from what I’ve read Googling around, they don’t seem to last as long as the hard plastic ones – not so easy to keep them clean. The material could be used to make coffee cup/beer can sleeves – or insulating pipes around the home where space is too tight for expanded foam.

Any other suggestions?

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3 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle lunch boxes?”

  1. Kara says:

    If the lunchbox is in good shape, just “unfashionable”, they are pretty easy to re-cover or put a patch over the old design. Torn linings are a little trickier; I usually can’t get at the tear to mend it properly so I make new linings out of outerwear nylon – it’s fairly waterproof and very tough. (I got my nylon from an old windbreaker whose ribbing had deteriorated.) You might also check with the local La Leche League or other breastfeeding advocacy group. The lunchbox size insulated coolers are great for storing and transporting pumped milk.

    Now, if the lunchboxes get stains or odors, I have had great luck with powdered dishwashing detergent and fairly hot water. I leave the lunchbox to soak in the sink for maybe 15 minutes, rinse it, and let it dry. This method even got out the fermented chocolate milk stain and smell from the time my daughter left her lunchbox in the car one weekend!

  2. Tarah says:

    We’re planning on making kids activity kits for our wedding out of thrift store/garage sale metal lunch boxes. We’ll lightly sand down the image on the outside, paint over it with chalkboard paint, then include big chalk, plain paper, crayons and big magnets inside the kit. They can draw on the outside with chalk or use the magnet on the inside to hold a piece of paper for coloring.

    Alternatively, you can use old magnets, white shipping labels, some creativity and ink pens to create thin magnetic dolls or a magnetic paper doll set. This was my first idea, but it’s too time consuming for our wedding (we’re going all DIY). First, paint the inside lid white, then use permanent markers or paint to create a scene. You could also print multiple scenes on paper that can be held up large magnets.

    The insulated lunch boxes would be good for bringing things to the beach or camping. Use them to hold electronics or as a first aid kit (also good to keep in the car).

  3. supergeeky says:

    metal ones can hold car toy kits. You can paint them with various game boards (like checkers etc), or just a plain color and get shape magnets for them to make art with. Or you can paint the top with chalkboard paint and put chalk inside for them to draw various things on it with. It can also hold small toys, crayons and paper,other small travel games etc.

    You can use any style for storage for pantry, bathroom, storage etc. Or you can donate them to charities looking for school supplies for under privileged children.

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