5 Fun Recycling Projects for the Whole Family

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With our increasingly finite resources, recycling isn't really something that's a choice anymore. It's more of an obligation to make responsible decisions for the good of our planet and for the benefit of future generations, who will have to live with the long-lasting effects of our lifestyles.

Reusing and recycling are two of the best ways to make sure waste is cut back to the bare minimum, and that our landfills and garbage barges pile up as little as possible. The best way to teach your kids about this is to lead by example -- and it doesn't hurt to make process enjoyable, either. Read on for five fun recycling projects you can get the whole family involved in!

Glass Mosaic
Mosaics make perfect tabletops!
Mosaics make perfect tabletops!

A great use for recycled glass is by making a mosaic project with it. There are all different kinds of projects you and the family can dive into, from smaller mosaic picture frames to a large mosaic tabletop.

When it comes to choosing your materials, pretty much any glass you intend to recycle or throw away will do. Beverage bottles in different colors and textures work well and old tiles or broken dishes are especially great because you can incorporate bits of pattern in your design. You can also check online for recycled mosaic glass -- products that come from recycled bottles or "waste" from stained glass manufacturers.

The glass will come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes and are ground on the edges to make them safe for handling. Get your kids involved in all stages, from planning to execution, and explain to them along the way about the recycling process and how reusing materials is always better than disposing them.

Vinyl Records

If you're a child of the 1960s or '70s, then there's a good chance that you have a crate full of old vinyl records somewhere in your attic. If you want to keep your albums -- and actually use them -- then put that vinyl to good use in a crafty way your whole family will enjoy.

If you heat up a vinyl record in the oven on a cookie sheet at 150 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes, you can press it into the shape of a bowl by using another bowl as a guide. Make sure you use oven mitts and do it quickly -- the record hardens back up in about a minute. These bowls make great decorations, but don't plan on using them for food.

A hot record can also be cut into strips, re-heated, and made into bracelets. If you don't want to use the oven for shaping, simply paint the records in decorative colors and mount them on a board for some cool '70s-inspired art.

Old Furniture

A number of household objects become attractive decorative planters once they've become too worn to suit their original use. If you have an old piece of furniture that's obviously beyond restoration, why not turn it into a garden planter instead of sending it to the landfill?

Old chairs are great for this purpose. Get your kids to help brainstorm the design, whether it's painting the chair or adding decorative tile. Once you have the chair design down, cut a hole in the seat that will fit a standard plant pot. Then all you need to do is pick out a decorative pot and a plant or combination of annuals to complete the décor. Because of the weight, it's easier to go ahead and put the pot in the chair before you add the soil and plants or flowers. That way you can also make sure it fits snugly before it's weighted down.

Compost Bin
You don't have to start this big, but it's something to aspire to!
You don't have to start this big, but it's something to aspire to!

One of the best ways to recycle on a daily basis is by composting. For gardening novices, composting is when you take certain types of household waste, like banana peels and coffee grounds, and add it to a mixture of brown material, like fallen leaves and green material, like mown grass.

For the actual composting bin, you can use everything from an old vegetable crate to a homemade wooden corral. If a full-sized bin seems like too much to start with, get your operation going with a simple metal bucket and build the bin later. Once you move to the bin, make sure you turn the materials regularly with a pitchfork to keep air in the pile. Get your kids involved in this part because they'll delight in watching the materials break down, as well as seeing dozens of toiling earthworms doing their work. And before you know it you'll have rich, organic soil to feed your garden.


Cardboard is the ultimate material for creating family-style fun stuff out of recycled materials. It's cheap and therefore plentiful, and if it's in good shape, it's sturdy enough to build structures with. For easy rainy day fun, have your kids create picture frames out of cardboard. You cut the shapes and then let them decorate them as they see fit. You can even create a stand for the back out of another strip of cardboard.

On a larger scale, kids' playhouses are great uses for cardboard on its way to the recycle bin. Simply set up the boxes, cut a few windows and let the fun begin. Kids can spend hours playing make believe in their very own home for the day. And if you ever find yourself the beneficiary of an unexpected snowfall, a piece of cardboard will serve as a ready makeshift sled in a pinch.


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  • "10 Family Conservation/Recycling/Waste-To-Resources Projects." Greenopolis.com. March 31, 2012. http://greenopolis.com/goblog/joe-laur/10-family-conservationrecyclingwaste-resources-projects
  • "Mosaics, Anyone? Recycled Glass To The Rescue!" Craftingagreenworld.com. March 31, 2012. http://craftingagreenworld.com/2008/09/25/mosaics-anyone-recycled-glass-to-the-rescue/
  • "Recycle and Reuse Common Household Goods." Allfreecrafts.com. March 31, 2012. http://www.allfreecrafts.com/recycling-crafts/household/index.shtml
  • "Start a Compost Bin." Peachygreen.com. March 31, 2012. http://www.peachygreen.com/green-kids/start-a-compost-bin