Ultimate Reuse Challenge

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We like to consider ourselves a bunch of creative people here at Earth911, so most our staff was on board and excited about the Ultimate Reuse Challenge.

Because plastics are one of the most abundant materials in the waste stream, our task was to create and reuse a specific type of plastic in an original, funny or creative manner.

Over the next three weeks, we will feature the top 11 designs. Readers can then vote for their favorite design, and the winner will get a donation to his or her favorite charity.

Here are this week’s projects:

CD case bird feeder

Matt Saling – Graphic Designer

Considering Matt’s role here at Earth911, we had some pretty high expectations for his reuse project, and he didn’t disappoint. His one goal in creating this project was to only use the CD case and glue.

Matt’s original idea for his project was one of irony: a docking station for the one item that has almost single-handedly made CDs obsolete – the iPod.

But when playing around with case, Matt found that it could be folded into an L shape, similar to a rooftop – the perfect shape for a simple bird feeder. While it wasn’t his original idea, he was more than satisfied with the outcome.

“I was happy with how fast it was to make, it wasn’t long and complicated,” he says. “I am happy the simplicity, ease and accuracy of my birdhouse. Anyone could do it.”

What you’ll need: One CD Case for the triangular bird feeder, two cases for the square bird feeder, hot glue, twine, small stick

CD case bird feeder

Image courtesy of YakkityKnack.org

How to make it (triangular bird feeder):

Step 1: Unfold one CD case, and remove the inner tray. With the jewel case open, the front side will be the bottom.

Step 2: Take the CD tray and super glue it to the front cover (which will be the bottom) at an angle. Tie a knot in the end of your string and glue it to the case.

Step 3: Fold the case to make a triangle shape, glue together.

How to make it (square bird feeder):

Step 1: Use two CD cases, and fold them 90 degrees, facing inward. Glue the connecting edges.

Step 2: Cut stick to length and glue where it meets inside the center of the CD case, fitting into the holes.

Step 3: Tie twine to the top, add seed and enjoy!

Matt’s bonus tip: Albums by The Eagles or The Black Crows work best.

Candy wrapper BMX pegs

Dave Benjamin – Software Architect

Dave admits that he was bummed about getting candy wrappers for his project as he just felt uninspired, calling them the “definition of trash.”

But after a little research for inspiration, Dave decided to apply this project to his own outside hobby of restoring an old bike.

Candy wrappers

Image courtesy of Amy Messere

“I was already working on a BMX, and I was spending a lot of time on it, so it seemed like I should leverage that time and make this a part of that project,” he explains.

Dave bought the bike a few years ago at a garage sale for $20 as a replacement for a bike that was stolen. But the pegs had been poorly spray painted and looked tacky, and Dave didn’t use the pegs for years.

“I was already kind of replacing and repainting things, and a common theme with candy wrappers was reusing them as pattern or as wallpaper,” he says. “So that was perfect for recovering the pegs.”

What you’ll need: Approx. 20 snack wrappers (Dave chose Starburst because he liked the color pallette), Mod Podge, clear coat spray enamel

How to make it:

Step 1: Paint a layer of Mod Podge on the pegs and place one layer of wrappers in a desired design.

Step 2: Spread another layer of Mod Podge over the wrappers. Make sure there are no air bubbles and wrappers do not move around. Repeat step 1 until satisfied with thickness of the wrappers.

Step 3: Wait for Mod Podge to dry, coat with clear spray enamel. This step is important in order to make the covered pegs sturdy enough for activity. It also provides a glossy shine.

Dave’s bonus tip: Even if you’re not a bike rider, this is a great project that can easily be applied to all metal surfaces.

“Overall, I like the way the wrappers look on the bike. I think it’s a fun idea,” Dave says. “Anyone reading this may be quick to criticize the small amount of material, but if you think about it, the entire bike is a reuse project.”

Milk jug luminary

Lori Brown – Executive Assistant, Writer

When Lori was assigned milk jugs, she was relieved. Out of all the plastics, Lori thought the milk jug material was the easiest to work with. But she quickly found that most of her initial project ideas, such as watering cans or seedling planters, were already posted on several other Web sites.

In search for originality, Lori found a design template on Better Homes & Gardens for a luminary that sparked an idea of incorporating humor and Halloween (her favorite holiday) into one project.

“I wanted to do something quirky that could be used as decoration,” she says.

But while her idea turned into an original piece of art that we enjoyed here at the office, Lori isn’t so impressed with her work, as she made some simple errors in her construction.

“I don’t feel like the project turned out well because it is supposed to be translucent, and that’s why milk jugs work really well for projects of this nature,” she explains. “I got too wrapped up in the painting part of it.”

Lori says when she does this project again, she will be careful to not use as much paint so that light can easily shine through the jug.

ghosts made of milk jugs

Image courtesy of sharyn morrow

What you’ll need: One milk jug, low-VOC paint or markers, flameless candle

How to make it:

Step 1: Cut off the handle and the top spout of the jug.

Step 2: Choose a design template for your project. Lori elected to forgo printing and eyeball the design to fit the jug.

Step 3: When painting your jug, use a very thin layer and avoid overlapping, as it is important to maintain the translucency of the plastic. You can also try markers for more detailed illustrations.

Lori’s bonus tip: Use this project to decorate your home for any holiday. Lori is already planning her luminary black cat and Frankenstein.

“Overall, I just had a really great time adding humor to it and laughing,” she says. “It’s definitely a project I will be doing again.”

Stay tuned next week for part two of our challenge. The staff will be reusing yoga mats, plastic bags and bottle caps.

What’s your favorite project? Tell us! The winner will receive a donation to his or her favorite charity. Submit your feedback below, via Facebook or Twitter.

Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. The American Chemistry Council is one of these partners.

Feature image courtesy of GotCredit