holiday ornaments on tree

Purchasing a fresh pack of pretty ornaments to adorn your holiday tree is indeed enticing. Before you reach for your wallet, wait. Perhaps you want to embark on a different approach for bedazzling your branches. From delightful homemade baubles to elaborate works of art, upcycled materials present an opportunity for a wide range of festive ornaments.

Whether you’re a DIYer or you’d rather let professional artists do the heavy lifting, upcycled drink pouches, stray puzzle pieces, cans, and other materials offer unique, interesting designs for holiday ornaments. Plus, there are other perks:

  • There’s an endless source of supplies — often free.
  • Making ornaments is a fun DIY holiday activity for kids and adults.
  • Repurposing instead of purchasing reduces waste.
  • The purchase of upcycled ornaments supports planet-friendly artisans and entrepreneurs.
  • Upcycled ornaments make intriguing and unique presents.
  • No excess packaging or shipping is required.
Upcycled aluminum can ornament
Upcycled can ornament created by ZipperFishUSA artisans

DIY Upcycled Ornaments

Get Crafty With Recyclables

Pick through your pile of recyclables. Sort through your junk drawer. Allow your imagination to fly.

If you prefer simple projects, slice an empty food box into rounds or other fun shapes. Or retrieve excess jar lids and round plastic tops from empty oatmeal packaging. Paint your own design. Even easier, squirt a few dabs onto your surface — such as the plastic oatmeal lid in the picture below — and swirl with your fingertip.

upcycled holiday ornament
Finger-painted plastic lid ornament. Photo: Patti Roth

If you prefer to skip paint, grab your glue. Decorate lids or paper shapes with favorite photos. Or devise a design with leftover wrapping paper scraps. Or make mosaics from bits of junk mail.

DIY Upcycled Ornament Ideas From TerraCycle

For other DIY ideas, TerraCycle features instructions on its website for upcycled ornaments using toothpaste tubes and drink pouches. TerraCycle is a firm that focuses on recycling waste that is not usually suitable for traditional recycling platforms.

Toothpaste Tube Ornaments

Upcycled toothpaste tube ornament
Upcycled toothpaste tube ornament. Source: TerraCycle

Empty toothpaste tubes — with residue removed — are formed into airy spheres that serve as individual ornaments on their own, or stacked in pairs.

Instructions from TerraCycle involve flattening the tube and slicing six rings ¼-inch wide rings. Using a needle, poke two holes at opposite ends of the ring. Align the holes and attach the rings with thread. Add beads to enhance the design.

Drink Pouch Ornaments

Upcycled drink pouch ornament
Upcycled drink pouch ornament. Source: TerraCycle

DIY instructions for shiny ornaments formed with a drink pouch require scissors, a ruler, and tape. The design features a dozen ½-inch-wide strips woven and looped, with the straw hole strategically placed for tying on a thin length of ribbon.

More DIY Ideas From Instructables

Upcycled Ornaments Created by Artists & Artisans

Guitar Strings

Upcycled guitar string ornaments
Wire ball ornaments made from upcycled guitar strings. Source: Fox Designs Jewelry

Jeanna Fox of Fox Designs Jewelry wraps upcycled guitar strings into wire-ball ornaments.

“Each unique one is made from a set of previously played guitar strings that have been saved from the landfill,” according to Fox Designs Jewelry Etsy page. “They are not recyclable through traditional methods because they are made of mixed metals.”

Hues for guitar string ornaments include silver from electric guitars and rose gold from acoustic instruments.

“I get strings from a few independent music stores near me,” Jeanna Fox says. “They save me the strings when they do repair work.”

Vodka Bottles

Vodka bottle ornament
Upcycled vodka bottle ornament. Source: Bunzow Glass

Bunzow Glass repurposes vodka empties and other bottles into charming ornaments.

“Some of them are cut directly from the bottoms of bottles and some of them are cut from bottle necks and tumbled in a rock tumbler,” according to information from Luke and Nikki Bunzow.

“We love working with upcycled glass because the possibilities are endless,” the Bunzows said. “We encourage several of the local bars and restaurants to save their glass bottles for us rather than tossing them out.”

Aluminum Drink Empties

Upcycled drink can ornament
Upcycled beverage can “origami” ornament. Source: Ben Goraj, Goraygami

Ben Goraj hand folds beverage cans, creating metal “origami” ornaments. He adores upcycling what others regard as trash, even if occasional wounds occur when working with sharp edges.

“I form my ornaments by hand with a few simple hand tools. I cut the cans down with razor blades and I fold the thickly layered sections with pliers, but otherwise, it’s all by hand,” he says.

Shipping Pallet Wood

Upcycled shipping pallet ornament
Upcycled shipping pallet ornament. Source: Resplendid

Snowcapped peaks glisten on Resplendid’s upcycled wooden ornaments sliced from recycled pallet wood.

“I think it’s important to divert materials from the waste stream whenever possible,” says Resplendid artist Susan Mattson. “ I really enjoy revealing the beauty of humble pallet wood scraps … The distinct smells of the different wood species always make me smile.”

Susan applies thin sheets of gold and other metals on the peaks. “I love how the gleam of the precious metals contrasts with the rustic salvaged wood,” she says.

More Artisan Designs

Check out these interesting upcycled artisan ornament designs made from various upcycled materials.

Feature image courtesy of cottonbro, Pexels

By Patti Roth

Patti began her writing career as a staff writer for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Still based in Florida, Patti serves as editor for Fort Lauderdale on the Cheap. She regularly writes about environmental, home improvement, education, recycling, art, architecture, wildlife, travel and pet topics.