7 Creative Ideas with Waste Materials to DIY or Together with the Kids

7 Creative Ideas with Waste Materials to DIY or Together with the Kids

The best waste is of course no waste, but as long as that is a utopia, there is nothing better than coming up with creative ideas with waste materials.

One of the most beautiful sayings I ever saw was: Waste is only waste if you waste it.

And once you get used to thinking in terms of reusing and not wasting stuff, a huge flow of ideas will start, I can assure you.

In this article, I list a number of ideas for inspiration or imitation.

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Creative ideas with waste materials

It’s too easy to just throw waste in the garbage bin. A lot of materials can be used again either with the same function or for something completely different. Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot, rethink, and repurpose are great intentions to make the waste mountain smaller!

Waste separation

Pencil holders from old cans

For as long as I can remember, my husband and I have separated our garbage. At first, that was only throwing away paper and organic waste separately from the rest. Later, plastic and glass were also separated.

In fact, since we have grandchildren, it has become our mission to make the world more sustainable. One of the results of this is our website Our Green Health.

Once you start noticing how much material is about to be thrown away and is still useful, you will find all kinds of purposes for them. Be inspired not only in this article but also by my free eBook 100+ ideas for crafting with waste.

Waste materials are raw materials

Raw materials are becoming increasingly rare, so it is better to be cautious with them.

#1 Pallets

In construction and building, they use pallets for transportation. If you order a lot of stuff at the hardware store they deliver it on a pallet, which can be discarded when you are ready.

Why not build furniture out of it? Have a look at the picture of how they constructed these beach chairs. They are painted with leftovers from a maintenance job.

In the other picture, you see how they have used some pallets as flower pots. It’s also great to notice, they have reused old windows as covers for the greenhouses.

The Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek is known for his beautiful furniture made of discarded wood. It has become such a mega-company that I sometimes even doubt whether it is really all scrap wood. 🙂

Pallet chairs
Credits: BelcrumBeach, Breda, the Netherlands
Flower pots and greenhouses

#2 Alternative hay box

A hay box is a cooker that utilizes the heat of the food being cooked to complete the cooking process. It is a way to save gas or electricity during the cooking process. Cook the food on an ordinary stove for a couple of minutes and then put the pan in the box.

A friend of mine made these retained heat bags out of old blankets and fleece jumpers. His tip:


Make sure the end of the zipper is at the bottom side and not on the top. That way you can put a saucepan with a large handle in with the handle peeking out.

Related: Slow Cooking with a DIY Solar Cooker can be so Much Fun

Fabric haybox
Credits: Rein van Gisteren, Belgium
Fabric haybox

#3 Toilet paper holder

A toilet roll can hang on the wall with a piece of rope, but where do you keep the spare rolls? PVC pipe can provide a solution.

PVC sewer pipes are sawed in halves, glued together and painted in a nice colour. The glue in itself would be too weak to hold the pipes together, so the outer halves are both fixed to the wall.

toilet paper holder
Credits: Podium Bloos, Breda, the Netherlands
toilet paper holder
Credits: HM

#4 Spool knitting

My mother sewed all my clothes when I was young. In those days the coils were made of wood. I remember vividly how we turned them into tools for spool knitting.

Idee-Shop, a German webshop (easily translatable in Chrome).

I was on the lookout for things to do with my grandkids who visit us nearly every school holiday. So I rumbled through my own sewing things, only to realize that nowadays the coils are of plastic or cardboard. Wasn’t I lucky to have a friend who collects everything she can lay her hands on?

She gave me a wooden spool in which I hammered 4 nails. 


The best nails have just a slight thickening on the head. Don’t hammer them in too deep, because then the thread will come off too easily.

The wooden knitting nancies that are for sale have bent iron wires so the yarn cannot snag. Most have 4 loops, although some have 3 and others even more than 20 nails.

The knitted rope that is created can become a cord for a hood or be made into a coaster if you spiral it like a snake and sew it together.

Credits: HM | wooden spool given by Jenny van Diggelen, Breda, the Netherlands
Tools to make a spool

#5 Decorating stones

When our eldest grandson was 3, I started painting stones with him. Like most 3 years old he tended to add too much water to the paint. Add a bit of wallpaper glue to the water when your (grand)child does that as well.


Another tip: if the stone is too porous, paint it first with some leftover white latex paint or gesso.

My former colleague Hans always collected materials at second-hand markets and environmental parks. Screws, nuts, old jewellery, and stuff like that.

He used a large stone as a paperweight. Demounted cheap jewellery is glued onto it. The stone Hans used had a remarkable symmetry which made it obvious that it had to be turned into a face.

Car on stone
Credits: HM
Credits: HW Lohman, Breda, the Netherlands

#6 A greenhouse of waste

Free the ocean of plastic
Play Free the Ocean‘s game every day for free and fund the removal of plastic.

In the Netherlands are a lot of glass greenhouses and whenever there has been a storm the damage is huge. You don’t have to worry about broken glass if you have a greenhouse like Rein has. 

He found some electricity pipes, connector pieces, transparent plastic and nets (for extra support) in a garbage dump and was all set to grow his vegetables and herbs.

And as you can see in the pictures his plants grow and flourish marvellously. In winter Rein stores it until the next growing season. 

We are lucky enough to live in Spain nowadays, where we have 2, sometimes 3 growing seasons and no need for a greenhouse! I have grown some mixed feelings about a plastic greenhouse given the way the Spanish farmers handle their plastic. So if you have plastic, use it with care.

Plastic greenhouse
Credits: Rein van Gisteren, Belgium
Plastic greenhouse

Related: 9 Tips to Reduce Packaging for Consumers (and Listening Producers)

#7 Always short on photo frames?

Pictures of the grandchildren; cards I receive and want to keep for a while; magazine clippings – I am always short of space to keep them.

I sawed a cork in halves and sawed these halfway in the middle. If the card or picture is not too thin or thick and not too heavy this works like a charm. When the pictures topple over you can glue a couple of corks on cardboard. That way you have a nice group and it will stay steady.

Another alternative is you cut it across instead of in the length.

Photo holder
Tools for the corks

Related: Easy Sustainable Living Ideas – Pick 1 or 2 and Start Living Green

Can you add an idea of your own? Tell me in the comment box below.

This article is an update. Originally published on 14-06-2017.

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4 thoughts on “7 Creative Ideas with Waste Materials to DIY or Together with the Kids”

  1. I had a period when I wanted to transform every pallet I got my hands on into a piece of furniture/decor for my summer house. I had a board on Pinterest just for this and even managed to make a pallet table and a wall thingy in the garage to store my knick-knacks.

    • That is so great, Kaitlyn! It is amazing what can be made out of pallets, isn’t it? I would love to lay my hands on some to use in my garden. Like you, I collect ideas on a Pinterest board, so as soon as I do get the opportunity to work with some pallets, I will have lots of ideas as well. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting and have a great summer.

  2. Thanks for inspiring my next weekend project. I have some wine corks that I forgot to recycle, they would be lovely as photo holders for my polaroids from our last family party. I have a ton of videos saved just for this, ideas for cute crafts and recycling projects, there’s no end to our creativity.

    • That would work so well, Andrea, because polaroids are more firm than the usually printed photos! It’s great, isn’t it, to collect ideas. I use Pinterest and Instagram for that. It works like a charm. 🙂

      Have fun and thanks for your comment.


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