If you’ve ever seen the stunning chandeliers made by Magpie in Bredasdorp, which are snapped up by buyers worldwide (including the White House), you will know the potential of what most of us view as garbage. While we may not be as creative as the socially conscious local collective, there are plenty of ways to utilise everyday items that we would normally toss in the bin.
Used tea bags and leaves have a myriad uses, from relief for tired eyes to feeding plants, but they also tackle household cleaning tasks with ease. Make a cold brew to clean mirrors and floors. When I interviewed Jessica Bonin of Lady’s Bonin’s Tea Parlour , she shared her secret to clean and shiny wooden floors. You guessed it: tea!
Toilet Roll Tubes
These are the ideal way to propagate seedlings. The cardboard will biodegrade so the entire thing can be planted. Egg cartons can be used, too.
Perfect for shining shoes and it is fun enough to encourage children to shine their own school shoes.
Dry out the crusts and loaf ends in the oven and turn them into bread crumbs. Much cheaper than bought. I toss in my own herbs and spices for maximum flavour.
Have an old and rusty garden rake head? Turn it into a clever and rustic storage solution for everything from belts to keys.
Bicycle Inner Tube
Remember all those times you forgot to buy elastic bands to keep things neat and tidy? Cut a punctured inner tube into strips for super strong bands.
Like tea, coffee grounds have many uses, including neutralising odours in the fridge. We like to scatter ours around plants to keep ants and slugs at bay.
I learned this clever trick attending a course at Soil for Life. Pierce some holes in the bottom of a milk bottle, bury it, and top up with water for the cheapest effective slow drip irrigation system.
Silica gel packets
Use old silica gel packets to keep moisture away from important documents and precious photographs.
Cook with Waste
Yes, really. One of my favourite food blogs is by Lisa Casali, who lives in Milan, Italy. Lisa combines two of her passions – cooking and the environment – and creates delicious recipes utilising everything from stale bread to fruit pulp to vegetable scraps. Explore the English version of Ecocucina here.
Do you have creative, inspiring ideas for utlising waste? Let us know by emailing
by Michele Attwood