Dear Jill,

I want to recycle and reuse product packaging, and I thought you would have some ideas where to get started with this. I am particularly interested in making crafts or other items out of some of the product packages and bottles that seem too nice to waste.

Jenny F.

“Upcycling” is the new term for creating new products out of something that would normally be thrown away, and reader Jenny is right, there are many ways to reuse and create new things out of product packaging. I’ll admit this is an area I haven’t explored as much as I’d like, but I am always looking for new ways to reuse interesting items, too.

Here are some ideas for turning old items into new:

Pop-up baby wipes containers: These snap-lidded containers are useful for so many things! Even though my kids have been out of diapers for quite a few years, we still have some of these around the house being used with new purposes. My kids store loose crayons in them.

“Pods” detergent containers: These fishbowl-shaped plastic containers with a lid may have previously housed laundry detergent capsules, but once they’re empty? Use them to store plastic grocery bags (just stuff them inside and pull them out, one by one, from the top).

Plastic coffee grounds containers: If you enjoy camping, you’ll want to reuse the round, plastic coffee tubs with a handle built into one side. They provide great watertight storage for a roll of toilet paper. You can cut a slot in the side to pull the sheets through, but it will stay more protected than simply carrying an open roll to and from the latrine.

Empty breath mints containers: If you buy the type of breath mints that come in a clear plastic box, reuse the box to hold a small quantity of salt, pepper or other spices for tailgating or camping.

“Jug” style detergent containers with a squeezable spout on the side: Once these are empty, I wash them out and use them to store water for washing hands while camping, picnicking or tailgating (can you tell our family are outdoor people?). Never store drinking water in a container that previously held detergent.

If you’ve got an empty detergent bottle with a handle on it but no spout, you can turn it into a garden scoop by rinsing it out, capping the bottle and cutting the bottom of the bottle off. Then, use it to scoop potting soil, fertilizer, birdseed, you name it!

2-liter bottle: Because these bottles are so easy to cut, they make easy one-use funnels for garage or outdoor projects. Just cut the top of the bottle off, then invert. Toss it out, or recycle it (again!) when you’re through using it.

CD/DVD spindle: If you buy blank CD-R or DVD-R media, the 50-count plastic spindle case they come in makes a great take-to-work container for a bagel, croissant or doughnut.

If you enjoy using your fireplace, wood burning stove or an outdoor fire pit, I came up with a great way to reuse three items to make free, easy fire-starters. To make them, start saving egg cartons, dryer lint and candle stumps or old wax melts. I have a wax melt lamp that uses scented wax blocks or pellets. When the wax melts lose their scent, I use the lamp to liquefy the melts. I fill each compartment of an egg carton with pieces of dryer lint. Then, I pour the melted wax over the lint. When it cools, the fire-starters are ready! Simply break off one compartment of the carton and use it to start a fire. (This project always reminds me why we’re advised not to let lint build up in the dryer, because it’s extremely flammable. You’ll understand this the first time you light one of these fire-starters!)

What upcycling ideas do you have for discarded products or packaging? Email me at jill@ctwfeatures.com.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.