The world generates 2.01 billion tonnes of waste every year — and that number is expected to reach 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050. Food waste in the United States alone is enough to fill 730 football stadiums each year.
The majority of it ends up being dumped on some of the poorest countries in the world, such as Bangladesh, Laos, Ethiopia, and Senegal. Once there, the waste that can’t be recycled either ends up being illegally burned or dumped in landfills or waterways. These landfills are breeding grounds for disease and contribute to the conditions of poverty in these communities. The recycling process is also dangerous to the environment because toxic chemicals in the waste can escape during the recycling process.
Waste also produces methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere over the first two decades after its release.
Waste management can help to limit the effects of climate change and we can all contribute by reducing and reusing materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill. If you're looking to help reduce your own waste, here are 10 simple ways you can give everyday items new life by repurposing them.
1. Use Plastic Straws to Organize Your Cables
Plastic straws are notoriously bad for the environment. They endanger wildlife and contribute to the tons of plastic waste that is harming the planet. It's ideal to avoid using plastic straws altogether, but if you have any lying around, think twice before throwing them away. Among other things (including acting as chip bag clips), plastic straws can be repurposed and used to organize electrical cords.
2. Use Old Toothbrushes to Clean
The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) recommends that toothbrushes be replaced every three to four months. Switching to a bamboo toothbrush is better for the environment because of its biodegradability — but don’t throw the plastic ones away just yet. Just because you're not using them to clean your teeth, doesn't mean you can't use them to clean other things. Old toothbrushes are perfect for cleaning hard-to-reach spots like the inside of water bottles or computer keys, as well as jewelry and shoes.
3. Use Plastic Jerry Cans and Bottles as Storage
Plastic jerry cans and bottles are used to package everything from water to detergent. Unfortunately, they are terrible for the environment because most of them are not biodegradable and contain toxic chemicals. Instead of throwing them away, you can use them to store items around your home, or even turn them into bowls or pots for plants.
4. Use Soap Slivers to Create a New Bar of Soap
According to Green Hospitality, about 2 million bars of perfectly usable soap are thrown away each year in the US. To prevent soap waste, you can melt down soap slivers and remold them into a new bar of soap.
5. Use Mesh Produce Bags as Pot Scrubbers
A lot of produce such as onions, potatoes, and garlic, comes in mesh produce bags. Mostly made out of plastic, these bags are generally not recyclable and can be harmful to the environment. You can, however, reuse mesh produce bags by using them as pot scrubbers, jewelry holders, and gift wraps.
6. Turn Shoeboxes Into Picnic Baskets
People around the world buy between 14 to 19 billion pairs of shoes each year, according to Common Objective. That means there are a lot of shoeboxes — and a lot of waste. To help reduce that waste, you can turn them into boxes that carry the goods for a picnic with family and friends. These cute picnic boxes with ribbon handles are made from old shoeboxes.
7. Turn Wine Bottles Into Candle Holders
Wine bottles, like all glass bottles, are much more damaging to the environment than plastic ones, a study by environmental experts at the University of Southampton revealed. About 70% of wine bottles end up in landfills, according to Fortune. To help reduce that number, you can reuse wine bottles in various ways from using them as homemade candle holders to turning them into soap dispensers.
8. Use Old Shopping Bags as Gift Wrapping
Grocery bags contribute a great deal to waste that is dumped in landfills every year. A great way to repurpose them is to turn them into gift wrappers. With the help of a pair of scissors and some tape, you can easily turn shopping bags into nice wrapping paper.
9. Cut Sponges in Half
A lot of things we buy can actually be divided into two to limit waste. Sponges and scrubs, for example, can be cut in two and used twice instead of buying new ones. A lot of single use plastics like resealable plasitc storage bags can also be used more than once and in other innovative ways.
10. Turn Old Clothes Into Cleaning Rags
According to the BBC, about 92 million tonnes of textile waste is created globally every year. Their production is responsible for 20% of global clean water pollution. They also produce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to landfills. So, instead of throwing away stained bed sheets or socks with holes in them, repurpose them as cleaning or dust rags for your home.