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20 Reusable Household Items

20 Reusable Household Items
Written by Oana Schneider

If only people used washable hankies instead of tissue, we’d be saving a lot of trees. If reusable drink containers were used instead of disposable glass bottles, aluminum cans or plastic bottles, there would be no drink containers to recycle in the first place. If reusable totes were used to carry grocery items in, there would be lesser plastic bags to throw on landfills.

Unfortunately, not all households and individuals exert the extra effort to choose something reusable over disposable items. Disposable, as the name implies, is easy to throw away in the trash. The problem is that such trash or garbage accumulates over time. The raw material required to produce things that will be thrown away after one or two uses end up as trash, thereby adding to the problem.

Top 20 Items to Reuse or Recycle

Now, if you would like to do your share in helping save the environment, what you can do about this? You should exert a lot of effort into making your household green and that will contribute a lot towards the reduction of trash. To start with, here are the top 20 items that anyone can use or recycle, but absolutely do not know how:

1. Athletic shoes

If you have stinky, old shoes which you do not wear anymore, your first instinct would probably to throw them in the trash. But did you know that companies like Nike have a Reuse-a-Shoe recycling program? When you send over your Nike athletic shoes to them, the material from the old shoes will be incorporated into the Nike Grind. The resulting material is used in everything – from athletic running tracks to soles for shoes and even zippers for shoes or dresses.

2. Bras

How about recycling for a good cause? If you think that bras are too embarrassing and too personal an item to recycle, what about giving them to women’s shelters? A recycling company in Arizona started the Bosom Buddy Program which revamps donated brassieres. The overhauled underwear are given to women’s shelters and other establishments which help women gain self-sufficiency.

3. Bicycles

The US throw out more than 15 million bicycles per year in favor of newer, better ones. Instead of throwing perfectly usable two-wheelers in the dump, you can give them a second leash in life. A program called Bikes of the World collects, refurbishes and donates bicycles to selected institutions in developing countries. It can also benefit individuals with lower income from the same areas.

4. Carrier bags

As much as possible, bring reusable totes when doing your grocery shopping so you won’t have to use the plastic bags provided by the stores. If you can’t help it, however, do reuse the plastic bags as bin bags for your trash. If they’re wet or dirty, simply give the plastic bags a good rinse and hang them out to dry so you can use them again. Paper bags can be used as wrapping paper or as padding material when packing fragile items inside a box.

5. Cookware

If you have old pots, colanders, pans, they can actually be given a new life simply by applying a coat of paint. They can be repurposed as garden planters, while colanders can be used as plant hanging baskets. Old teapots or kettles can be turned into watering cans or planters.

6. Cosmetics

The beauty industry earns billions of dollars in profit every year. Fortunately, the bigwigs and other companies like MAC Cosmetics, Aveda and Origins started a program where cosmetic packaging are easily recycled. This includes everything from compact mirrors to tubs containing creams, tubes of lipstick and other makeup items. There are also ways for you to avoid buying makeup packaging altogether by making your own.

7. Eyeglasses

If you’re in the process of replacing your plain eyeglasses, sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses, give them another leash on life by checking out the Lions Recycle for Sight Program. Old eyeglasses are collected, cleaned up and sorted by prescription strength. Then, they are distributed to people in developing glasses who are in need. The specific items that they accept are prescription glasses, reading glasses, sunglasses, plastic frames and metal frames. Kids’ eyeglasses are also needed.

8. Envelopes

Yes, you can reuse envelopes by sticking labels over the address. The stickers use up a smaller amount of raw material to create paper, so you will be wasting less. If you cannot use or seal the envelope anymore, simply cut and use as scrap paper.

9. Electrical equipment

If you’re moving, why not simply donate your old electrical equipment to schools or community centers in your area so they can be reused? Instead of paying movers to transfer your old but still working electrical appliances from point A to B, you can donate the items and purchase new ones for your new home. For the non-working electrical equipment, check out the website of the manufacturer to see if they have an existing program that will allow you to send the items over for proper recycling.

10. Electronic gadgets

We live in a tech-obsessed world and over the years, you would have accumulated a lot of electronic gadgets. These may contain lead and other material which, when not disposed of properly, may cause undue harm to the environment. Instead of throwing them away, you can bring your old iPod or other Apple gadgets to an Apple retail store. They will gladly take it off your hands and even give you a 10% discount when you purchase a new iPod.

As for mobile phones, only 10% are being recycled. Plenty of charities accept old mobile phones for recycling. If you have an iPhone which cannot be used anymore, you can return it to an Apple Store and be given a gift card in return.

11. Jars

When you go to the grocery store to buy baby food, peanut butter, sardines and other food products, they usually come in prettily packaged jars made from glass or plastic. Instead of throwing these away, wash and reuse as containers. A small jar used to store baby food, for example, can be used to store jar or powdered milk. Bigger jars can be used to store jam, preserved fruits or cookies. Just make sure to clean thoroughly and sterilize the glass jars if you are using them to store jams or fruit preserves, to prolong the shelf life of the food you prepared.

12. Newspaper, cardboard, bubble wrap, boxes, packing peanuts

All these items can be used as packing material when moving, or when simply storing knickknacks or odds and ends. If you don’t see a move in your future, you can donate the newspaper, cardboard, bubble wrap and packing peanuts to a moving company; a friend or a family member who is about to change residences.

13. Old clothes

If you love shopping for clothes, you will definitely have an accumulation of never-worn items. Organize your closet in such a way that you can separate the items that you can sell, donate or turn into other items. Old jeans, for instance, can be turned into shorts if the leg part is too frayed. Old towels can be used as a rag when washing cars or mops for the floors. Still usable clothes can be sewn together to create cushion covers, rags, TV covers, etc.

14. Resealable bags

Ziplock bags, resealable sandwich bags and similar containers are indispensable, but can also easily add to the trash. Fortunately, there are more than 18,000 in-store recycling centers operating now where you can even earn rewards points for recycling these items.

15. Tools and gear for bicycles

Like Bikes of the World, Bikes Not Bombs will gladly take bicycle tools and gear out of your hands. Broken or old bike components and parts like frames, tires, tubes, lights, locks, etc. are given a new life and donated to economic development projects overseas.

16. Twist ties

Twist ties can be used to secure loose items together like the wires of computers or your other wired electrical appliances at home, to keep them out of the way.

17. Tires

If you have some old tires lying around, why not line them up into the ground to serve as a stage in an obstacle course? If there’s a local school or playground in your area, you can do the same thing. Old tires can also be turned into outdoor swings. Tie a strong rope around the tire, attach two ends to a tree and make sure that it’s the appropriate for the kids or adults who will use the swing. One last thing that you can do is to simply donate the old tires to your local gas station, where the rubber will be recycled.

18. Water filters

Brita water filters in particular have a company called Preserve. The plastic pitcher filter casing of Brita is recycled by Preserve and turned into toothbrushes, cups, cutting boards and other recycled products. Brita water filters have activated carbon, and these can be used for alternative energy.

19. Wine corks

Interestingly enough, American sip more than 850 million gallons of wine – which means lots and lots of wine cork! Instead of throwing these away, you can turn wine corks into coasters or memo boards. You can also send them to places like Yemm & Hart or visit sites like recork.org so that the wine corks can be turned into new products.

20. Wood

There are plenty of ways that you can reuse or recycle wood. If you cannot repair an old chair anymore, for example, you can use the legs to make a spice rack, a unique bookshelf or a bird table. Old wood can also be chopped and turned into firewood. Any other small piece can be turned into special craft projects that you can finish with the kids and proudly display at home.  

Millions of tons of trash is being thrown away on landfills on an annual basis. To prevent further damage on the environment, you can easily do your share by reusing these household items instead of throwing them away in the trash.

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About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois and was part of our team as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget and has a degree in Communications.


  • This is quite the comprehensive list! I hadn’t heard of most of the programs run by companies to recycle their old products so thank you for letting me know!

    One thing I do a lot with old clothes is put them in charity bins and I do the same with old toys too if they’re in good condition. Also donating them to school carnivals and jumble sales is a really good way to get rid of unwanted items too. After all one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. It’s for a good cause and it’s much better than throwing it away!

    I got some really good ideas for what to do with old jars and cookware from this article, thank you for the tips! Who would’ve ever thought of using cookware to grow plants in?

    • Another way is to up cycle if you can. Then have something like a garage sale. Or simply just give it to charity. I know they’ll appreciate something new!

  • Amazing! Most of which we have been doing already that I’m not aware of. My husband likes building with scrap hardwood from old church pews and benches. Solid oak and hardwood! With tires, I used a lot of them in my garden growing potatoes, herbs and storing compost for green manure. With milk cartons and cardboard, my son made Capt. America shield (quite impressive work 🙂 !) Old refrigerator, you can make a worm farm for the garden.

  • Ooh, I wasn’t aware of the Bosom Buddy Program. I seem to go through bras like Kleenex and I’ve always wondered what to do with them. Thanks for that resource!

    I do love the Back2MAC program, that’s for sure. I haven’t acquired enough empty containers to return them yet, but I’m looking forward to the free lipstick I’ll get when I’m able to turn my empties in. 😀

  • Its really a good comprehensive list. Now i know what to do with my old tires. I had actually painted a couple of them for a yard decor, and children s swings fro donation.
    Thank you good post.

  • Although recycling is emphasized nowadays, and is thought of as a modern concept, it has been around for quite a while, although it fell out of favor for a few decades. I hadn’t heard of some of the programs listed above. I don’t buy Nike, but I will check to see if my sneaker-maker has such a program. What I do with my plastic grocery bags, is reuse them when cleaning the litter boxes. I will have to do some research, because I would love to find a washable cat litter product, so I didn’t have to constantly throw it out and replace it. I think a city could be built on a landfill of the used cat litter mine go through in a year.

  • I actually love seeing the types of things that people can recycle and turn into other things, it’s really clever. I wish that I was the type of creative person who could do it, but unfortunately I’m not. I do have a couple of friends who have made things for me in the past which I have loved, so that’s been great. I like the photos of the wellies being used as flower pots – this is something that I know people have done and it looks just as good in real life as it does on the photos.

  • I love reusing things instead of just throwing it in the trash. Stuff like jars or old plastic containers that used to contain yogurt, margarine, etc. are excellent for organizing and storing things. We also use a lot of ziplock bags so recycling them is definitely a priority. One of my favorites from your list that I wasn’t aware of is your ideas for reusing wine corks

  • I love the ideas you have here. I try to re-use items around the house, and manage sometimes to come up with some clever ideas. I’ll have to try some of these. I just donated old eyeglasses to a program similar to the one you have listed here yesterday, and clothing that my kids outgrew to a friend who does a kids clothing exchange (where everyone brings things they don’t use anymore to exchange for things they can use). I’ve used old pots and pans for planters, too. Love the bicycle ideas.

  • Re-purposing items is a great idea. There are so many cute projects you can make with items laying around the house you may not even be using anymore. I have re purposed numerous things including a dresser into a toy kitchen. Not only was it cute and unique, but it was fun to make for my daughter too. The ideas mentioned in this article are terrific and a great way to stay green. The more we can re purpose and recycle, the better our earth will be as well.

  • Very informative. There’s a lot of things like these that we can reuse and save money, without having to buy new equipment. I’ve always thought of the importance of not throwing away things, as we can benefit from them. My family often does throw things, which means we’re not really benefiting much, but I’ve always disagreed with it. Good article.

  • Thank you for all this info! Wow I didn’t know all of these existed. It’s great to know.

    When I was moving a few years ago, I gave away a ton of books to the local library. Me and my siblings had accumulated a bunch of books while going to college and some of the books never got resold. When I was moving (last person to move out), I didn’t know what to do with them. I first tried to resell them on amazon and some got sold, but a lot were left and I was running out of time. Gladly the local library was glad to take it off my hands. It feels great to know those precious books will be of use to someone else.

    And of course, we also donated a bunch of clothes. Some got thrown into clothes donation bins scattered around the city (which I am told that some of them are scams, so be careful) but I gave most of the good clothes to a local church, which distributes them directly to those in need.

    Anyway, your article is awesome. I am amazed by all those recycling programs! It is really great to know that people are working to preserve and prolong the use of an item or finding other innovative uses. I just hate when things are wasteful. I was happy to note that I’m already doing some of the suggestions. Always use shopping plastic bags as trash bags. I never just throw them out, I did end up with a big collection of them at one point! But using the reusable tote bags is what I’m doing now. And it really cuts down on the accumulation of plastic bags in my place! I also reuse jars as containers and even as cups! I’m always drinking tea and coffee and juice out of jars. They hold a lot more liquid and they can be cute.

    I thought the idea of using old cookware as gardening items was awesome. I will have to try that.

  • Hi, Oana! This is an amazing article! Some of these reusing or recycling ways are well known, but you brought some that may not be heard of enough, which is great. There are a lot of organizations out there that take care of specific groups of people in need, thanks for the informative list of them! I was wondering, what is your favorite way to reuse something and what is it?

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