Archive for the "packaging" category

How can I reuse/recycle foil bag linings to make a solar cooker or the like?

We’ve had an email from long-time commenter Melinda:

I’ve recently been struck with the foil linings of snack bags, and even dog food bags. Has anyone used these to create something solar, such as a cooker? What items have been put to solar use and how?

Making a solar cooker is on my to-do list for this year but I’ve not done it yet (and probably missed the hottest, sun-powered days – doh!) so I can’t advice on that. Anyone else got any experience making those? I was probably going to make something like this cardboard one to start with.

I also wonder if they’d be useful as soft mirrors behind plants, to reflect a bit of the light to the non-sunny side of the plant — a similar idea but, hopefully, without the cooking!

Any suggestions or tips for Melinda? Or any other solar related ideas?

How can I reuse or recycle personalised wedding favour boxes?

We’ve had an email from Rosey:

We just got married (yay!) and while we tried to keep the waste to a minimum, we have ended up with about 100 personalised wedding cake boxes leftover. Not sure how that happened! They’re just card but I’d like to reuse them anyway but didn’t know what to do since they’ve got our names and wedding date on them. Any ideas?

Are they pretty card (unlike the boring white ones in the picture)? If so, the non-customised bits could be reused for any general craft purposes. Although like with wedding dress we discussed a few years ago, it would be nice to use it for keepsakes rather than just … I don’t know, very fancy shopping lists ;)

Could they be turned into postcards for wedding present thank you notes – or used to make a “thank you kit” (a couple of small photos and a note)? A friend of mine sent out cheap USB storage keys with lots of photos from the day on them – candid snaps from friends as well as official ones – and a cake/favour box would be the perfect size for that.

Or to be super cute, how about splitting them between the two of you and writing each other messages for your future anniversaries – predictions of what will be or “IOU” promises for the long distant future?

Any other suggestions?

How can I reuse or recycle plastic shipping/mailing bags?

Kayci has emailed:

First off, I absolutely love your website and all the nifty and creative ideas your community finds.

Now for a confession: I am a bookworm. I typically go through 100+ novels a year without breaking a sweat. In an effort to try and green up my hobbies I’ve stopped going to the used bookstore as often, as it is a twenty mile drive, and when I do go I always buy in bulk. I’ve also switched from Amazon to They’re consistently cheaper, and they reward you for buying used books out of the same location.

My problem? Amazon always uses boxes, even if it was three or four of them per order. My new website sends my books in one large plastic bag (picture enclosed) that is numberless as far as recycling is concerned. The bags in question (I’ve amassed six so far) are 12×16 inches and have some minor holes from the shipping process. The texture of the bag isn’t conducive to making it into plarn, as it stretches out very easily. Any other ideas?

Hi fellow bookworm :)

The first thing you should do is email thriftbooks and explain your problem – they might not take action and change to cardboard (or similar) straightaway but the more people who complain about it, the more likely they are to change at some point — so join that chorus.

If they’re in good condition, and have been opened neatly with scissors, they can be reused for their original purpose – as a slightly smaller mailing sack next time you need to send something out. Unless you send a lot of things though, they may quickly mount up.

When we get those type of bags (and actually there is one on my desk right now that needs reusing!), we tend to use them as bin liners – obviously holey ones aren’t going to be good for small/wet rubbish but they’re fine in most circumstances.

That’s not terrible creative though – any other ideas?

How can I reuse or recycle big plastic (animal/bird) feed bags?

Over on the Suggest an Item page, Emily asked:

Would anybody have any ideas for reusing the bags that stock feed comes in? They are some sort of plastic and not recycleable.

Funnily enough, I had this on my to-do list already as I’m starting to be overrun with the things too – and I’ve only got six small chickens, so I can’t imagine how many are generated by people with lots of animals/birds. (Mine are the heavy-duty flat plastic types – we’ve covered the woven plastic type ones before.)

The things I already do with mine:

  • refill them with bedding & litter when cleaning out the coop. I bag it sometimes rather than tipping it all into the compost heap so I can give it to friends/family as fertiliser. Such a lovely gift! ;)
  • use them to line the wooden planters I make. (I do this with some hesitation for fruit/veg containers as I don’t know what plastic it is so there may be some leaching issues.)
  • use them as rubble sacks – they’re not quite as strong as actual rubble sacks but still pretty useful

I also know some people use them to “waterproof” ceilings of hen/duck houses, and I have a plan to build up the floor in our coop, and will cover it with these bags to make it easier to clean. Away from chicken stuff, I’ve seen people using opaque bags as weed barriers around trees.

Any other suggestions for ways to reuse them? Or any advice on recycling?

One thing I would say, as ever, is try to reduce your collection of them – look to see if there are any paper-bagged alternatives. If you’re storing the feed in a dry place, the paper getting damp shouldn’t be an issue. The heavy paper could be composted or recycled. Any other advice?

How can I reuse or recycle Ariel Gel Dosing Devices?

Granny Cain emailed about Ariel Gel Dosing Devices:

Enough!! I now have enough dosing devices for each child in a classroom…. but what to do with them? Tried poking a hole through the side, adding twine and making a bird feeder, but it kept flipping over. Needed some technical refinement… too much for my puddle brain. So folks please help me out!

I hadn’t heard about these dosing device but by the looks of it, they’re the new version of ye olde washing powder dosing balls but according to the only tiny picture I can find of them, more of a bowl than a ball, and apparently it “contain[s] an integrated soft plastic sphere”, whatever that means. (Is that right?)

Firstly, it’s obvious but since “reduce” is the most important thing to do, it’s worth repeating: really try not to collect any more. Liquid laundry detergent has a far bigger carbon footprint in packaging and transport costs – the gel is supposed to be a bit better on both accounts (and does promote itself on the idea that it can be used effectively at low (below 40C) temperatures) – but still.

As for the stash that’s already been collected, I’m struggling for ideas – either on how to make them into a bird feeder or anything else – since I’ve not actually seen one in the flesh — so over to you guys! Any reuse suggestions or recycling ideas?