Recycle and Reuse: Are there 100 Ways to Use a Milk Jug?

Milk jugs are among the easiest items to reuse and recycle.We believe in using, reusing and recycling what we have.  Not just milk jugs and cartons either.  Why spend money when you can use something in your garage or back room just the same?  For us it’s common to go to the garage or barn to see what we have laying around, perhaps leftover from some other project.  What we can’t reuse we recycle.

During conversations about reusing milk jugs, people say things like, “There’s hundreds of ways to reuse them”.  Okay, really?  Seems like there should be, right?  There begins the quest to find 100 ways to reuse the milk jugs.  The following is a list of the ways we found both at home and on the internet.  Almost all of them require at least minimal alterations to the jugs or cartons.

  1. Dust pan
  2. Chandelier
  3. Piggy bank
  4. Lunch box
  5. Plant pots
  6. Little greenhouses to protect plants from frost
  7. Storage bins (you can store anything that fits in them!)
  8. Ball toss game scoops
  9. Cut into templates for quilting or other templates
  10. buried auto-watering pots (olla)
  11. Cut and decorate the pieces into shapes for decor
  12. Cut and decorate the pieces into shapes for jewelry
  13. Combine with other jugs to make a child’s sized play house
  14. Combine with other jugs to make sculptures
  15. Sprinkler top jug (plain water or compost tea)
  16. Stackable storage containers (cut like lunch boxes)
  17. Seed starting container
  18. Scoops of various sizes and shapes
  19. Lamp shades
  20. Fresh water storage
  21. Freeze gallon size blocks of ice
  22. Tea light containers
  23. Yard and path lights (luminaries)
  24. Instead of jack-o-lanterns
  25. Making sun tea
  26. Cool kiddo’s car seat (place frozen water container in the seat while you are gone)
  27. Pool toys, closed milk jugs float
  28. Bird feeder
  29. Classroom art projects
  30. Drink shaker (add ingredients, shake and pour, refrigerate, drink)
  31. Cut into plant marker signs
  32. Hot Wheels gas station and repair shop
  33. Holiday decorations
  34. Disposable travel pet food and water containers
  35. Filled with warm water to keep a greenhouse warm at night
  36. Hanging storage containers
  37. Hanging plant pots
  38. Funnel
  39. Refrigerator storage bins for food items like fruits and vegetables
  40. Trash bins for home and car
  41. Weightlifting, filled with your choice of heavy stuff
  42. Food storage (anything that easily fits in through the top)
  43. Yarn holder
  44. Store rain water
  45. Toilet brush holder
  46. Convert older toilet to low flow by placing a filled gallon jug in the tank
  47. Cut into sections to keep burgers separated
  48. Paint trays, with or without the handle
  49. Biology class to make a skeleton
  50. Cut a hole in the top for your hand, slide the belt through the handle for hands free work
  51. Absolutely the best:  Storm Trooper Helmet

We weren’t able to come up with 100 unique uses, but these are all great!  If you have an idea no listed here, please comment!  The more uses the better.

Recycle all you can.  It saves you time, money and effort.  It also saves natural resources.  All of these ideas came from two Google searches.  The first was for images, and the second was for text.

Recycle and Reuse Series: Cloth

Recycle and reuse fabric.When we were kids, my mother used to recycle fabric by taking apart hers, or other people’s, old clothes and make new clothes for us.  One pair of men’s denim overalls would make a couple of pairs of pants and some shorts for the both of us.

Her dresses could make dresses and shirts for us.  She was quite skilled with a sewing machine and a pair of scissors.  She didn’t need a pattern.  She could see what she wanted to make.

Today, people buy more clothes than they can reasonably wear, then toss it out because they get tired of it before it wears out.  Too bad for them.  As a prepper, its your gain.

Those clothes end up in a variety of charity and other resale shops.  Take advantage of it!  Next time you shop in the local Goodwill, don’t go planning to buy a certain item for a certain person.  Although, that is useful too!

If you are a quilter, check out shirts, dresses and skirts for any suitable fabric for quilting.  Look in all departments.  Even children’s clothes can make a good number of quilt blocks.

Denim will come in handy for all sorts of things from making hammocks to bags of all sorts for a variety of purposes.

Lastly, save the scraps of fabric after sewing a project.  The pieces can be used as patches for other garments or items.  Quilters already know they can be used to make quilts.

By this time you should have quite a few quilt tops made.  Have you priced quilt batting yet?  The good stuff is unreasonably high dollar.  The cheap stuff is, well, cheap.

An alternative is to do like our grandmothers and great grandmothers did for generations past.  Use an old worn out blanket or quilt as batting for the new quilt.  Sometimes they would put new quilt tops on for the third time.  The quilt blocks were made of scraps of fabric left over from clothing past.

Another use for old cloth is to shred it into fine or very small fibers to be included in  your mix for hand made paper.

Lastly, fabric you don’t want to reuse but is still “good” goes into the rag bag.  Use it to clean messes and do dishes.  They go to the shop or garage to clean up paint and oil, then to the trash they go.

The secret to reusing fabric is knowing what is worth the effort and what is not.  If the fabric tears too easily, it’s probably not any good.  If it is thread bare, toss it out!


Recycle and Reuse Series: Paper

Everyone knows about recycling paper.  Or do they?  Lets take another look.  A quick internet search brings up about 50 ways to reuse paper in its Recycle Paperpresent form.  Everything from starting fires to lining pet cages, even the centuries old habit of using an old envelope as note paper is listed on some of the websites. One suggests cutting the envelopes into strips.  Most people just write on them.

One topic few people mention when discussing recycling, reusing and storing paper is the matter of safety.  While writing this article not one source mentioned the need for safety procedures.  The internet age has made it less necessary for mountains of paper to be produced and stored.  However, there are some occupations which bring more paper into your life than others.    Newspaper distribution carriers are one example.  They change out the old papers for the new ones in those nifty little newspaper boxes.  They end up with stacks of newspapers because they were not allowed to throw them away for a certain period of time.

Paper is heavy.  Be careful how you store it.  If a stack of paper falls, people and creatures can be seriously injured.  If the room where paper is stored catches fire, it will be very difficult to put it out and the fire will spread quickly across the room.  Some things to remember when storing paper:

  • store paper in boxes with lids and stack them neatly against walls or on shelves.
  • do not store unevenly matched boxes on top of each other or they may fall
  • do not store stacks of boxes in the middle of the room, they are easily bumped and will fall
  • do not store in a room where there is a furnace, hot water heater nor fireplace
  • it is preferable to store paper in a barn or shed, away from living areas.

Reusing paper starts with sorting it into “slicks” and plain paper.  Slick, also called glossy, paper is less water absorbent than plain paper, but it will eventually be just as wet.  To tell the difference between slick or plain paper, simply slide your finger across it.  Once you have it sorted you may begin recycling and reusing it in various ways from making jewelry from slicks to making fire logs from plain paper.

One use for reusing plain paper is to make new paper from the old.  Once the paper is made you can use it for any number of items such as greeting cards and personalized stationary.  This paper can also be used to make hand sewn books or books with glued bindings.  These items are especially desired because of the personalization of the item for the person who will receive it as a gift or as an heirloom handed down from generation to generation.

Regardless of your reason for storing paper, it is important to know that it is one item a prepper can collect free of charge.  All the prepper needs to do is remove plastic from envelopes, staples from pages, and sort it as slick or plain.  If the purpose is to make new paper they will need simple, inexpensive items for paper making.  Unfortunately, paper making is fun, creative and useful.  Therefore, you might find yourself making paper when you should be engaging in some other activities.

Making a book using my own home made paper has long been on the “to do list”.  I can’t just make one, I must make several because each child, and now grandchild, will get one.

These are the Google searches we used Recycle and Reuse Paper Search and Paper Making

Recycle and Reuse Series: Leather

Leather clothing is durable and can be recycled and reused to make other products.

The most obvious way of recycling leather is when it comes off the animal and is processed into something for human uses such as shoes, coats, and furniture, to name a few.  But then what?  What about when the product the leather is applied to is no longer useful?  Think twice before you throw out used leather items.  Some of them you can store as is, others you might want to remove the leather from the item.   The leather might be in good condition, or at least parts of it are reusable.

Indeed, leather was the first form of armor.   Leather provides protection against wind and cold.  It provides protection against hazards, such as leather gloves, leathers worn by motorcyclists and cowboys and snake proof boots.  When these products are worn out and about to be put out in the trash, reconsider that action.  Leather is versatile and can be used for a variety of things.  That old coat that has seen it’s better days?  Use it to make a couple of handbags or some man purse for ammo.  Those leather boots worn out?  Save them.  Cut the boot tops  off to use later as patches in various sizes for other items.

If you are a hunter, be sure to keep the skins and have them processed at a reputable tannery, or tan the hides yourself.  Leaving the hair or fur on the skin will provide an extra protection from cold and weather.  Some people suggest wearing the coat with the fur on the inside to maximize the warming effect.  But, wearing it with the fur on the outside will provide an ideal camouflage, don’t you think?

Happy recycling and reusing!



Recycle and Reuse Series: Corn Cobs

Growing up on the farm, we raised a large garden, enough to feed the four families that made up the family farm.  We also raised a few thousand acres of corn and soybeans.  Every fall the corn picker would come out of the machine shed and run nearly non-stop until the corn was all harvested.  Grandpa, the uncles and my dad took turns between harvesting and driving the grain trucks to the bins.  Once the bins were full, the rest of the corn went to the grainery for market.  When the corn was stripped from the cobs, the cobs went into a bin for the cattle to eat.  And they really liked it.  They had choices of feed and they chose the cobs.  I never understood why, until now.  I didn’t know it then, but we recycled and reused everything before recycling was cool.

Recycling and reusing corn cobs can be all kinds of prepper fun.When we ate sweet corn on the cob for dinner, we threw scraped the ears and fed the scrapings to the chickens.  We threw the cobs to the pigs.  Now I know that the dried cobs were just as tasty to cattle as the wet ones were to pigs.

On the same farm, we lived in a house built in 1887.  The basement had a huge old furnace that had burned a variety of fuels over time.  This things was room sized.  It had duct work as big around as a 10 year old child.  At one time it burned coal, then during the depression it started using corn cobs.  It burned cobs until it was converted to burning fuel oil.  When we moved in there was still a supply of cobs in the coal room, just in case.  If you needed to, you could have converted it back to using cobs.  Eventually, my parents had the monster of a furnace replaced with a less intimidating modern furnace.

Of course you could make corn cob pipes.  But there is so much more you can do with them.  They can be used to make  resins and solvents for automotive applications, making grit for sanding, and in making activated carbon.  Corn cobs can be used as part of a biomass tank to produce ethanol and storage for natural gas.

Here are some other suggestions, including a recipe for corn cob jelly and a hint at making corn cob wine.

Happy recycling and reusing!  The saved money will go nicely into your prepper budget some where else!