Archive for the "kitchen" category

How can I reuse or recycle large (catering size) food cans?

Sam has emailed asking about large food cans:

I have a number of large metal food cans, some zinc lined, which are called #10 size. They hold about 5 or 6 lbs (just under 3kg) of beans, or other foods. Now that they’re empty, they are open on one end, with no plastic lid to fit them. Any ideas?

Surely I’m not the only one faced with this. I can recycle them, but would like to reuse them.

They sound like pretty big tin cans – probably similar to what we call “catering size” in the UK. I think at least some of the ideas we have for regular size tin cans could be supersized here: plant pots, candle/tea holders for several candles, or using them as a vessel for making those candles in the first place.

But are there any reuses (or upcycling ideas) that are perfect for these bigger cans? Could the can be flattened out to make anything?

What food packaging & other household waste do you use for starting seeds?

It’s seed-starting time here in the northern hemisphere and my Twitter feed is full of exciting stories about what fruit & veg people are going to be growing this year. I’ve added half a dozen more fruit bushes to our garden this year but I’ve not sown any seeds yet — my seed box is sat on the side of my desk making sad puppy eyes at me as I type ;)

Gardeners & allotmenteers are just about always resourceful types when it comes to reusing and recycling stuff – I don’t think I’ve ever met a grower who doesn’t keep ice cream/margarine tubs etc for reuse – but I thought it would be worth having a bit of a sharing session about what you reuse for starting seeds, as plant pots or as water-catchers under plant pots, and if there is anything that you choose not to reuse for whatever reason.

At one point, a good few years ago now, I think about 90% of my seeds were started in plastic mushroom tubs — either directly in the tub or using them to catch water draining from plants pots. In the past, I also used shallow fresh pasta packaging as starter trays and multi-serving yoghurt/cream pots for the growing on stage. I know my dad keeps the clear plastic boxes used by supermarkets for muffins or pastries whenever he gets them because the lid gives the tray its own little propagator/greenhouse too – and similarly he cuts down 2ltr pop/soda bottles to make a pot with its own little cloche.

Moving away from plastic – since I do worry about putting plastic in direct sunlight/warm spots when it’s not designed to be used in that way, I’ve used newspaper and toilet roll tubes to make “plantable” pots – the former just require a little folding into shape and the latter can be cut in half to make twice the number or left whole as “root trainers” for growing carrots or parsnips.

(I also cut up plastic milk bottles & drinks cans to make plant markers for all these many, many seeds!)

So, what packaging (or other household waste) do you reuse for starting off your seedlings? What about for the growing on stage?

Reduce This: How can I revamp an old kitchen so I don’t need to buy a new one?

Yesterday, I posted a question from James, asking for ways to reuse or recycle a whole kitchen, because he’s getting a new one. Thanks to everyone that has commented about that!

At the bottom, I mentioned reducing is the most important part of the recycling triangle. James already seems quite set on getting a new kitchen but other people approaching a similar “new kitchen?” position may want to revamp what’s there rather than starting again. By “other people”, I mean me ;)

Our kitchen is also 15+ years old, is looking rather tired (especially as half the kitchen has one cupboard design, the other half a different one) and the far end is generally pretty dark (as is obvious in the picture!). We did a few things to freshen it up when we moved here two and a half years ago such as repainting the walls a more neutral shade and replacing the very scuffed, dark green hob & sink with lighter alternatives (thanks eBay for second-hand bargains for both!).

More recently (as this week – it’s still drying), we’ve had the nasty grease-attracting spiky artex ceiling reskimmed so once painted, that’ll look fresher and as well as redecorating again, we’re going to add some tiled splashbacks (since there aren’t any at the moment – mucky walls a go go!). We’re hoping to find a replacement for the badly fitted dark vinyl flooring too and improve the lighting somewhat. Will it be as nice as a new kitchen? No — but it’ll hopefully be good enough and more practical so we won’t need to decorate again for a good while (I hate decorating). I don’t think I have the skill or space to do an adequate job of repainting the cupboards (which would make the mismatched doors more uniform) but I’m hoping everything else will freshen it up enough.

Have you revamped an old kitchen to save replacing it? Do you have any tips or suggestions?

Did you include any reclaimed, recycled or upcycled elements in your “new” kitchen? I’d love to hear your stories for inspiration!

How can I reuse or recycle a whole kitchen?

I’m back post-lurgy and I thought I’d post this great question from James – asking how to recycle a whole kitchen:

We shall be replacing our kitchen in the next few months. The present one is 15 years old and is perfectly serviceable. I don’t want to “skip” it. Any suggestion as to how I can recycle it?

My first suggestion would be to try to pass it on – lots of people would love a kitchen revamp but can’t afford to go the whole hog so just replace cabinet doors etc. I regularly see sets of door & drawer fronts offered up on eBay, Gumtree or Freecycle/Freegle (and probably Craig’s List in the US). Built-in appliances can be sold/passed on separately too as they often expire before the rest of the kitchen so people might want to replace just those bits.

People don’t just use them for revamping their own full kitchens either – someone might want to make a “tea station” at a community venue, or for storage in a porch/understairs cupboard – so if you’ve not got a lot, someone still might want them for that sort of thing instead. And tatty but still usable cupboards and worksurfaces are still useful in places where function very much trumps form like a garage, cellar or shed – and old sinks are often useful in those places too. We recently covered ways to reuse old ovens (and toaster ovens) too so again, people might want those for non-culinary pursuits where aesthetics are less important.

As for more creative reuses (rather than just reusing stuff for its original purpose), I’ve made oversized planters from wooden cupboard doors before, I’ve seen people making pretty serving trays from doors and Alison Bailey Smith curated an art project last year where people used her old kitchen as art materials.

(Of course, I also have to mention the most important point in the recycling triangle – reduce. New kitchens are very resource intensive and a greener option would be to revamp an old kitchen rather than replacing it with all new …. but you know what, I think that’s a whole ‘nother post for tomorrow! ;) )

Any other suggestions for ways that James could recycle his whole kitchen? Have you given away an old kitchen – or got one from someone else? Any tips?

(Photo by cgarbiano)

How can I reuse or recycle margarine tub lids/cream cheese tub lids?

Whitney has emailed us, asking about margarine tub lids:

i’m trying to do my part and make sure that i recycle everything that i can, or at least find a way to reuse it. i recycle my #5 containers of cream cheese, margarine, etc, but have nothing to do with the lids, which even if they are also #5 they are not accepted in my recycling.

any ideas of what i can do with them? typically i just put them under plant pots, but i can only have so many plants. and i thought about making coasters, but i don’t really use coasters, so i’m open to some new ideas!

When we get this type of tub, we tend to keep both the lid & the tub to reuse for leftovers instead of Tupperware or use as small storage boxes in other parts of the house (eg, we’ve got one for batteries, one for fuses and one for shoe polish in our misc cupboard). But there are a lot more uses for the tub part than the lids so I imagine there are a lot of lids going in the bin — let’s see what we can do with them :)

Funnily enough, a lot of my ideas are the same as the ones from Monday’s handicapped tags – add them to your tool box for use while decorating/painting, cut them up for plant markers in the garden, cut the rim off and shape the remaining plastic to use as a dough scrapper etc.

Anyone got any more original ideas though? :)

(Photo by cogdogblog)