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what others throw out
Oily raggers are a creative bunch.
There is no limit to their imagination when it comes to putting other
peoples junk to good use. They have come up with millions of ways
(thousands…hundreds…OK, some ways!) to turn rubbish into of uses for
things that others throw away. Here are some of those creative
suggestions, but send in your own ideas for the mirth and benefit of
- Go though waste skips at building
sites. A lot of excellent material get dumped, material that can
usually be had for the price of asking. – P.S.
- How about saving those calendar
pictures. They make wonderful wrapping paper. - G.A.
- Cars get abandoned from time to
time. The get dumped any where: reserves, forests, anywhere at all.
They are however a treasure-chest of nuts, bolts, screws, washers,
clips, pins, hinges, handles, hoses, wire, belts. Springs and so on
that can be used for house repairs or modifications rather than
having to go cap-in-hand to the hardware store. They can also
provide seats for the porch as well as glass, steering systems,
axles and diffs for larger projects. – P.S.
- Use inside "plastic" bags
from cereal packets to wrap left-over food instead of grease-proof
paper. I use it to wrap my lunch and it keeps fresh. Just wipe and
dry it each night. - J.J.
- Each year I make my own Christmas cards with my own poem and
pics of children. For
envelopes I use magazine pages, they're easy to fold into an
envelope. I used old bridal mags last year. They look great
and people appreciate your effort.
Unfortunately some recipients thought they were
wedding invitations! Hehe. V.M, Levin.
- Once Christmas is over, mum cuts up her Christmas cards and uses
the pictures on the front for present tags for the coming year.
-2nd generation Oily Ragger, Wellington.
- I am not a knitter, so op-shop or passed on jumpers etc
would be used like knitted material and cut down to make
anything from kids clothes, to patchwork throw rugs or to
line oven cloths and pot holders. If you are smart and
utilise the ribbed areas well shrunk woollens make brilliant
leak proof baby over-naps, provided you don't use disposables.
I also made toddler 'ski' suits out of an adult parka, again
using existing rib and running the zip right down one leg to
make nappy changing easier. I found that a lot is achievable
with just a basic zig-zag sewing machine and as little
sewing as possible, use what is already sewn. - W.G.,
bits and pieces
- Use as broom holders. Attach two
cotton reels just far enough apart for a broom to fit between. -
- Shirts with scuffed cuffs and
collapsing collars can be transformed into pillow cases. - O.R.
- I'm 74 now but I well remember being a poor university
student and begging bacon ends from the butcher and ends of
the cheese rounds from the grocer. We ate Pavlova most
nights - sugar was cheap and we got egg whites free from the
laboratories because they only used the egg yolks for their
tests. We used to line our rooms with egg cartons for
sound insulation and to stop draughts. That was in 1957.-
JWC, Auckland. [Egg cartoons for sound proofing and
insulation – now that is an oily rag trick!]
- Make excellent pots for seedlings.
Fill with compost and plant seedlings in each compartment. - O.R.
the top and use the bottom as an office organiser. Place
paperclips in one compartment, rubber bands, in another and
as an artists paint pallet. Open up the carton, place a blob
of paint in each compartment and place the brushes in the
lid. Toss away after use so there is no messy cleaning up.
- Empty egg cartons are excellent for draining deep fried
chips etc. - D.M, Katikati.
reader has asked what can be done with egg shells. We put that
question to our oily rag research team and they came up with a
surprisingly large number of uses and some interesting facts.
eggs shell accounts for about 10% of its weight and is
about 95% calcium carbonate? For
years scientists have been looking at ways to use the calcium
properties in egg shell. It has many commercial uses, including
in paper making to improve
brightness, opacity and strength in paper (those oily raggers
making their own paper may want to try adding crushed shell to
their paper making recipe). It is also used as a nutritional
supplement in animal feed and more recently engineers at Ohio
State University have found a way to use the high calcium
content in the hydrogen fuel process.
it also has many uses around the home and in the garden. Here
are some of the more common (or interesting) uses.
crush the shells and tip a small quantity down your drain.
It will sit in the elbows and scour away grease and grime
and as they flow to waste, and prevent future blocking.
a stain remover. Place finely crushed shell into a damp tea
pot or thermos. Let it sit overnight, then add water, swirl
around then rinse out.
people use the shell as a filter. Crack open the top of an
egg, poke a small hole in the other end, and pour in
whatever is to be strained. The liquid will seep from the
bottom. (Big jobs may require Ostrich sized eggs!).
near whole shells to plant seedlings; crack a few holes in
the bottom for drainage. Place them in an old
egg carton. When the seedlings are large enough to plant out
crack the shells and plant. This can add a bit of fun to a
plants with crashed egg shells to deter slugs and snails. It
acts like a barrier because these garden pests do not like
crossing over sharp objects.
crushed shell into your compost bin or directly into the
soil of plants like tomatoes and roses. You could also make
a liquid fertilizer by placing crushed egg shells into a jug
of warm water and leave for two days. Apply the water
directly onto indoor or outdoor plants.
those with chickens, add crushed shell to their food. The
calcium in their diet helps build strong shells and give
them grit to help them digest their food. The trick here is
to crush the shells up in tiny pieces. Place them in a
plastic bag and run-over it with a rolling pin or something
similar (like the family car!).
as a health supplement for you and your pets.
Shells are full of calcium. Crush dried egg shells
(preferably in a warm over) into a powder and sprinkle over
your food. Half an egg shell would provide the daily intact
for most people. Add it with the dog and cat food too…
they need calcium for strong bones and healthy white teeth.
traditional oily ragger now in her 80s recalls with humour
playing practical jokes on her school mates. They would fill
an empty egg shell with confetti and break them over
someone’s head (and we thought kids today were bad!).
oily ragger said they hide little home-made treats inside
eggs and open them up at kids parties – a little like the
egg candles. Remove the top from an empty shell, add a
central wick then melt candle scraps into the egg. Place in
an egg cup and light.
baubles are interesting decorations on a Christmas tree.
faces. Paint a happy egg face. Mom, dad, bothers and
sisters… all sitting on a humpty dumpty wall. Or what
about Russian eggs?
each egg in half… hinge and have a smaller one onside.
make mosaics from egg shells, paint the shells before
crushing, and gluing to a solid surface. Another method is
to spread hobby glue over the surface of something sturdy or
a box, can, a mat, books, etc and sprinkle the egg shell
over to give texture. Paint the image when dry and spray
with several coats of sealer. Small prices can be used like glitter.
only use a large rubbish bag about once a month for rubbish
to go to the dump. I always put fruit and vege scraps, tea
bags, egg shells, and vacuum cleaner contents into a bucket
and when it is full I dig it straight into my small vege
garden, where it turns into soil in next to no time. The
compost bin is used for grass clippings and prunings and the
odd weed - that takes much longer to produce soil." -
C.T. Onerahi, Whangarei. [Good idea C.T. We put all
household scraps into a compost bin, and a few weeks ago we
emptied it to find dark rich soil. We formed it into a
fertile mound, which has now become a thriving melon and
pumpkin patch. Another way of getting rid of kitchen food
scraps is to start a worm farm. We read an article recently
about one being made from a length of 160mm downpipe. It was
fun for the kids and a great way of having tiger worms turn
kitchen waste into plant nutrients. - oily rag ed']
out the new Kiwi "freecycle" website www.asksharegive.org.nz
for heaps of fantastic free stuff. Anything can be borrowed,
given away or exchanged on the site as long as no money
changes hands. – JF, Auckland.
- Great site where you can send out an email to all members
offering an item you no longer want/need for free. They pick
it up so no cost to you. And you can also ask for items, or
if you get an email and are first to reply you can pick up
something for free. - Miriam,
get a lot of enjoyment out of using things other people
class as rubbish and if I save money by doing so, it’s
even better. For years I was on a small wage and I still
managed to pay off a $10,000 loan in 3 years. I’m proud of
myself and think I am a real “oily rag” person!
– J.O. Christchurch.
- Don't throw your old
basketballs away. Simply cut the tops of and poke a few
holes in the base of the ball. Fill with spagnum moss and
soil, and fill with plants, Poke four holes evenly around
the top and hang up with rope or what you have lying around.
Makes a good hanging basket. Have fun. - Dianne
- This isn't an original
idea but I joined my local city Freecycle online. It is
excellent for picking up or giving away items that might
otherwise end up in the landfill. You can give away or ask
for anything within reason. No money changes hands. I've
picked up a vacuum cleaner that works incredibly well, toys,
bar stools, and plants for my garden. You can find you local
town or city here
>>> - Sande
- A use for old guttering:
board up the ends and fill half with spagnum moss and
then soil on top. Plant
out with parsley which will grow nicely even over winter.
Probably can do little lettuces too. -
- I have a use for the
small extra pieces of marley guttering. I buy 2 stop ends
for the piece and glue into place and this makes a great
feeding trough for my chooks. - B.H., Pakaraka
- To get the labels off
commercial jam jars use hot water. Heat water in the kettle
as the water from the hot tap isn't hot enough to soften the
glue. Pour the hot water in the sink but not directly on the
jars with a few drops of detergent and soak for a couple of
minutes then wearing rubber gloves and a vege knife try to
peel the labels off. Stubborn glue residue can sometimes be
removed with cooking oil. Jar lids can be reused to seal the
jars. Steralise using the same method as for preserving jar
seals. - Sweetpea,
- When cooking, I use
junk mail, old newspapers, box of cereal opened up, to line
the kitchen counter while i prepare food. Afterwards, all
the rubbish just gets folded in the paper and the
counter-top is as clean as, or just needs a little wipe. -
- I use all junk mail for lighting
fires, wrapping rubbish, etc - J.J. (and an excellent use for junk
mail it is too! - Oily Rag Ed')
- Recycling milk cartons are great for potting up seedlings.
Cut in half with knife, trim bottom corners with scissors
for drainage. Ready to go, Plants should be removed when
ready to plant as plastic coating doesn't breakdown. - M.T.,
- Use to freeze fish. Put the fish in
a clean milk carton, add water then freeze for later use. - O.R.
- Wash milk cartons. Dry and use to
store food in the freezer - don't forget the label. Alson good for
carrying plants. - J.D.
- Newspaper bags: Take 2
sheets newspaper. Lie lengthwise. Fold up along bottom
approx 3". Reverse over. Fold into 3. Tuck outer one
under flap. Reverse over. Fold in half & tuck under
flap. Has lots of uses including your unwanted pamphlets etc
for collection. - C.M., Kawerau.
- I have found that cutting the corners off the bottom of an
empty one litre milk carton and packing in wet newspaper
makes wonderful compressed fire bricks. As the carton fiills
I make holes in the sides to allow the water to escape.
Compress the wet paper into the carton. These paper bricks
last about two hours in a low combustion fire and about an
hour in an open fire. An entire weekend Herald will almost
fit into one container. - G B, Kerikeri.
- Use as wallpaper - very appropriate
in rooms like a study. - A.N.
Makes good carpet underlay to stop
those sneaky drafts. - A.N.
- Use as cat litter - but be
very careful which section you use. My cat gets very nervous
if I include the "pets, free to a good home"
section! - O.R.
- I have a firend who made a
really attractive lamp shade from a newspaper. The old shade
had worn out so ne simply pasted the pages around the frame.
What made it really interesting was that he used the
newspaper that reported the 1987 sharemarket crash. It is
always an interesting read and it is nice to know that he
has finally seen the light! - O.R.
- When dried they make excellent fire
starters. - O.R.
- The plastic domed packets that duvets or sheets come in make
ideal kneelers for gardening.
Just stuff with the packaging or a newspaper. - Yane,
save my empty Maggi stock plastic containers (washed &
dried) remove label & re-label-for my Spices &
Herbs. One side used as a sprinkle the other side if I want
to use a bit more. - Shar, Wellington
the tops of old panty-hose around the bristles of a soft
broom and use with a little detergent if necessary to clean
the car or windows. Hosing down first helps, then dry off
with a clean rag. Cut sections off the legs of tights or
knee highs to use over lower trouser legs to stop them being
caught in a bike chain. Pieces of old tights make effective
cleaning cloths. Old tee shirts and skivvies make good
pyjama tops. Get the last of the contents out of tubes by
cutting them in half. - Gaynor, Paraparaumu.
- When planting my strawberries I have given them a mulch of
wet shredded paper from my shredding machine. It matts
together nicely keeping light out to prevent weeds and I
should have nice clean strawberries to eat. Makes use of
your old bank statements too. Or your advertising junk is
very colourful when shredded. Will break down eventually and
feed the worms helping the soil. - Canny Scot, Christchurch.
- Paper towel cardboard rolls
are a convenient and tidy way of storing plastic bags in
your drawer. I just stuff the plastic bags in, and pull them
out when needed.
of throwing out your old phone book, a reader from Awanui
suggests it be used on the kitchen bench for hot pots. Tear
out the pages as required to wrap small items for the
rubbish and to use under paper towels when draining fried
- Being the meanest woman in the world according to my two
daughters aged 15 and 8, I refuse point blank to buy
gladwrap or plastic bags.
In fact, so mean am I that I reuse the plastic bag
the TV Guide comes in for a lunch bag for sandwiches. (Oh
the TV Guide subscription was a gift. Do I sound like I
would pay for such a luxury?) Every plastic bag that comes
into our home meets several different fates. It is laid flat
on the kitchen bench and I cut the handles off, then I slice
down the sides so I have 2 large pieces of plastic.
This I then cut into sizes suitable for wrapping
sandwiches, and any other items that will find their way
into the school and work lunch boxes. And I always use
plastic bags to cover food in the fridge. If I buy meat from
the supermarket I pull of the wrapping and rinse, and use to
cover the cat food, which by the way I also make. Mean,
absolutely, and proud of it. - Waste Not Want Not Lauren,
- Like waste-not-want-not Lauren, I too use the plastic bags
that magazines and advertising come in for our lunches. I
haven't bought plastic bags for over 20 years! I have
started to use the plastic bread bag tags, too. I freeze
left overs, etc. in the bags and write the date and contents
of the bag on the plastic tag. Only when I've written on
both sides of the tag, I throw it in the rubbish. I don't
use plastic covers to put over left-overs in the fridge, I
put a plate on the bowl, or a saucer on the cup, which I
then can put straight into the microwave if I need to. - J.O.,
- Plastic grocery bags make
great small garbage bags or use them as rubbish tin or waste
- Paper towel cardboard rolls
are a convenient and tidy way of storing plastic bags in
your drawer. I just stuff the plastic bags in, and pull them
out when needed.
than buy packing, a reader from Hamilton recommends cutting
the tops off two plastic soft drink bottles, one slightly
larger than the other. Insert the items to be posted inside
one of the containers and then push the two containers
together to form a cylinder. It’s then ready to wrap and
- At Christmas time I always
cut circles out of plastic milk bottles and use them as gift
tags. They look
like bubbles and if you add a little glitter and hole punch
and thread ribbon through they are fab!!!
Use a permanent marker for the name. -
- 2lt ones are great for
cutting up and making into flash cards for little ones.
Cut down the side panels into the size you want then
right on them with permanent markers , words, numbers,
letters etc. Hole
punch through the corner and thread onto an old key ring.
Great for in the car. -
Plastic ice cream
- Next time you think
about throwing out your old ice cream boxes cut them into
strips and make little plant markers with them. Make sure
you use a waterproof marker when writing on them. - Canny
- Cut ice cream containers into plant labels; write
on with garden pen. – G.B.
- Donate ice cream containers to preschools. – G.B.
Plastic milk bottles
- Use as flowerpots. - T.H.
- Use off-cuts from roof guttering
(plastic) for a cool sloping track four your kids cars to go down.
My son loves them, and they are free! – K.C.
- To make strong
"rubber" bands of varying sizes, cut used rubber
gloves into strips. The cuffs make big bands and fingers
make smaller ones, good for keeping pairs of knitting
needles etc together. - Canny Lass, Upper Hutt
- With living nearby a rubbish tip
I've become a tip scavenger. I go out and scout around after the
bulldozers go. I barter articles I find such as "fur"
coats, discarded stuffed toys with plastic noses/eyes to a home
handicraft lady for any mending or sewing I need done. I also
exchange articles with another lady in exchnage for fresh baking.
With the barter system wveryone is happy. One persons junk is
another persons treasure. - G.W.
- An expat oily ragger has some suggestions from across the
have this thing called hard rubbish day over here where
people throw out all their old junk. I went for a drive with
my father in law (otherwise known as Mr Steptoe) and we got
a big old desk with 9 drawers, hose reel,
shade cloth, drip pipe and we will do another drive tomorrow
for some more goodies - all free of course." - B.J.,
- A reader from Gore says, "I have found that putting a handful of blood & bone
with the rubbish when wrapping it up to bury will in most cases help
break down bones."
- I have a lot of soap pieces
that I keep during the year. I render them down in an old
pot, when it's a bit cooler add petals from your garden,
even pieces of orange peel,apple peel, lavender flowers,even
use your old perfume. Use cookie cutters [$2 shop] stand on
waxed paper, and tip the melted soap in and let it set, and
wrap in sellaphane paper and tie with ribbon.
- When double or queen size sheets are a bit worn in the
middle, I cut them down & rehem the cut edges to make
cot-size sheets. - A recycler from way back, New Plymouth.
- Used tea leaves make excellent
fertiliser for pot plants. - O.R.
- Use used tea leaves to make a window
cleaner. Simple pour boiling water on the discarded tea leaves/bags,
leave for an hour, then use. - O.R.
- I save my tea bags and use them
to clean my eye glasses. The bags do a perfect job, and then they go in the garden.
- Tea bags make great fire starters. After brewing your
morning cuppa, flatten each tea bag out and leave in the sun
to dry (or in the hot water cupboard). When dry, store in an
air tight container, add a little kerosene and give it a
good shake. Remove from the jar when ready to use. -
- Regarding your tip on reusing old tea bags as firefighters
do you need to drain off the kero’ after adding to the jar
of dried teabags? Very
drippy and smelly and it lingers on the fingers for ever!
Have used a wooden skewer to fish them out and put the whole
thing in the fire. By the way my husband tells me his Dad
used to do a similar thing with cut up old Pinex soft board
tiles. - MJP, Rotorua. [In answer to MJP’s question, yes,
drain off the kero’ so the now kero’ infused teabag is
keys, rings, jewellery etc in an empty baked bean tin and
place it up high on a shelf when you go away. Should anyone
break in when you're away, valuables will appear to be part
of the larder ! Harder to find than easy places like the
dressing table in the bedroom ! - D.H. - Howick
- An empty used tin of beans can be used as packaging to post
things in. It's quite strong and keeps whatever you are
sending safe inside. - L.O., Rangiora
- If planting large seeds like beans,
use the inners of toilet rolls, part fill with seed mix, put in the
seed and top up. You can get about 12 of these to stand up in an ice
cream container. And in due course plant out the whole tube. No
transplant shock. The cardboard will rot away quickly. – G.B.
- Use as a scrubbling brush in those
hard to get at places like between ceramic tiles, taps, etc. - O.R.
- Get the last drop out of tubes of anything by cutting them
in half when you have finished squeezing out as much as you
can. You will be
surprised how many more portions you will get out of the
tube. Slip one
cut end inside the other until finished.
This works really well for cosmetics - I find I get
at least another week's use out of moisturisers, etc. - A.V.,
- Use old rolls or part rolls to make
inexensive gift bags and wrapping paper. - A.C.
- As a Christchurch resident with our wheelie bins supplied I
was left with a plastic bin with locking lid. I have found a
great use for it, after washing it I got my husband to drill
10 holes in a circle around the lid then 5 holes in an inner
circle to fit broom handles. Now we have a very tidy garage
as all the brooms, mops, hoe, rake, garden canes etc. are
all standing in the bin. It has even proved earthquake
proof. - Canny
- If you need to keep food cold when travelling by car, here's a
tried and true tip. Save the plastic bladders from empty wine
casks and fill them with enough water so that they lie flat
like a brick and freeze them a few days before travelling.
Then pack frozen bladders on top of your food in the chilly
bin and your food stays cold between destinations. - Carol,