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Items to Repurpose Before Throwing Away

Items to Repurpose Before Throwing Away

Here at Albatross Designs, we are big fans of repurposing, reusing, and upcycling items. In fact, we started the world’s first Blade Take Back Program as a way to encourage repurposing instead of disposal, as well as create a closed loop for our products. And if you made any eco resolutions for New Year’s, or if you are considering adding in some zero waste lifestyle changes throughout this year, lowering your waste footprint by implementing The 4 R’s can be a great place to start! We brainstormed some items that we feel can easily be given a new or extended life by repurposing them in a creative way. We also hope this list will encourage you to discover your own ways of repurposing items around your house. In the meantime, here’s our list of items to repurpose before throwing away: 

  1. Coffee Grounds
  • This is an idea that actually involves repurposing more than one item. Have you ever gotten to the bottom of a glass jar of pasta sauce or pickles or mayonnaise and realized that although you’d really like to reuse the jar, you’re a little hesitant because you just can’t get out the smell of whatever product was in there before? Well, have we got the solution for you! You may not know that coffee is a great deodorizer. And if you’re anything like us, you probably brew one (or two, or three . . .) cups of coffee a day. Instead of tossing your used coffee grounds, give them a second life by repurposing them to deodorize those glass jars! It goes like this: 
    • Once your coffee is done brewing, transfer the used grounds to the jar you’d like to deodorize. 
    • Pour boiling water into the jar until it’s about halfway full. 
    • Once it’s safe to do so, screw the lid onto the jar and turn it upside down. 
    • Let the jar sit for a day or two, allowing the grounds to sort of marinate and do their good, deodorizing work. 
    • After a day or so, rinse out the grounds (bonus points for composting them!) and wash the jar with dish soap. And voilà! The jar should be free of old smells and good to go.

      Also, you may be wondering, why turn it upside down? In our experience, the jar lid holds onto most of the odor, so letting the coffee soak there (as opposed to the bottom of the glass) is the best way to tackle that lingering scent. 
  1. Wine Corks
  • Cork is a very versatile material and wine corks in particular have extensive repurposing capability. You can keep the corks whole and glue them together to make things like coasters, picture frames, pot holders, or bath mats. Or you can try repurposing them into stamps by tracing and cutting out a shape from their ends. You can also turn them into a holder for a very small succulent by cutting out a hole from the top and filling it with a small amount of soil and the plant (YouTube it for examples). In addition to just being a nice memento of a bottle of wine that was either split with someone you love or opened to commemorate a special moment, wine corks have a variety of repurposing possibilities, and we’d recommend hanging onto them! 
  1. Citrus Peels
  • If you’re someone who loves DIY or homemade cleaning products, you’ll be a big fan of this idea! The next time you peel an orange for a snack or zest a lemon to garnish a dish, don’t throw out those citrus scraps. Instead, try repurposing them to make citrus-infused vinegar. Here’s how: 
    • Add citrus peels to a glass jar until the jar is about halfway full. 
    • Pour in distilled white vinegar, filling the jar about an inch from the top. 
    • Screw on the lid and give the jar a shake. 
    • Leave the jar in a dark place for 3 weeks. 
    • When the time is up, strain out the peels from the vinegar (bonus points for composting them!). 
    • You will now have a pretty concentrated solution of citrus-scented vinegar, so when you are ready to use you’ll need to dilute it with water (1:1 ratio). The water/vinegar mixture can be added to a spray bottle and used as an all purpose cleaner. 
  1. Cleaning Wipe Containers
  • While we don’t necessarily recommend repurposing plastic containers for food storage, it’s still beneficial to find a second life for any type of container that’s perfectly usable instead of tossing it in a bin. The plastic cylinders that hold disinfectant wipes are sturdy, spacious, and perfect for storing a number of other items once the last wipe has been used. And given the events of the last few years, it’s a safe bet to assume that we all have at least one pack of disinfectant wipes sitting under the sink or amongst our cleaning products. Once your container of disinfectant wipes is empty, consider turning it into: 
    • A dispenser for reusable (repurposed) rags – paper towels are super convenient, but reusable, cloth rags are better for the planet. We try to use cloth rags when possible, and often make them from old clothes that are on their last leg. Socks with lots of holes, ripped t-shirts, etc. all make great reusable rags for a variety of chores around your house. Keeping these cut up pieces of cloth in a reused container can make them as convenient to use as paper towels. You can also use a container to collect used rags for convenient storage and optimized laundry loads. It’s up to you to decide what’s an acceptable use of reused rags, but if you are used to using paper towels, you’ll soon develop an appreciation for the durability of real cloth!
    • A toilet brush holder – remove the lid and store your toilet brush in the container between uses. 
    • A container for laundry pods – this is a bit more of a unique solution, but one of our team members repurposed their old disinfectant wipe holder as a container for laundry detergent pods that they purchased in bulk from their local zero waste shop. This is just one example, but the idea is that the container can be reused to hold any number of items! 
  1. Egg Cartons
  • Assuming your empty egg cartons are clean (no accidental yolk spillage left behind), there are several creative repurposing ideas you can try! One of the most common reuses for egg cartons is as a seed starter (YouTube it for examples). Seed starters are used to cultivate plants when they are in their early seed stages and can’t yet be moved outside or to a larger pot. Because an egg carton has multiple compartments, they are perfect for sprouting multiple types of seeds, and each little cubby has just the right amount of space for each seed to begin to grow. These cubbies also make great organizers for other items, and we’ve seen repurposing ideas like using them to store children’s chalk, crafting materials, office supplies the possibilities are endless! Or, you could also look into refilling your egg cartons at your local farmers market. Most farmers markets have at least one vendor selling eggs, and you could check to see if this seller is in need of additional cartons or if they’d be willing to refill your carton with their eggs. 
  1. Vegetable Scraps 
  • Similar to citrus peels, a common repurposing technique is to hold onto your vegetable scraps and turn them into a useful new item: veggie broth! Repurposing vegetable scraps does require hanging onto them for a bit. As you are conducting your usual cooking or meal prep, keep any carrot peels/ends, potato peels/ends, celery ends, bell pepper cores, garlic ends, and onion peels/ends that you accumulate. You can also use other scraps aside from these, but we’ve found that these types of vegetables result in the richest and best tasting broth. Store the scraps in the freezer in an airtight and freezer-safe container (we use a reusable silicone baggy). Once you have about a half gallon of scraps on hand, follow these steps to make the broth: 
    • Transfer the scraps from the freezer to a large pot. 
    • Fill the pot with water until it is just covering the scraps. 
    • Leave uncovered on high heat until the pot comes to a rolling boil.
    • Once the pot is boiling, cover and turn the heat to medium-low. 
    • Let simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. 
    • When safe to do so, strain out the scraps from the broth (bonus points for composting them!). 
    • You will now have several cups of a tasty, vegetarian stock that can be used for a multitude of soups, casseroles, gravies, etc.! You can also extend the life of the broth by portioning it out and freezing it until you need to use it. 
  1. BONUS! Razor Blades
  • As we mentioned, we established our Blade Take Back Program as a way to collect used razor blades back from our customers. By sending your blades back to us, you are helping us upcycle them into other sustainability-promoting products, like our Take Back Ware mobile utensil kit. And, this is like the ultimate repurposing of an item, because Take Back Ware was created to help combat the 100-million plastic utensils that are thrown away each day in the United States alone. 
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