Dear Recycling Bins: Our Monthly Recycling Advice Column
Welcome to our weekly advice column where we look at all things recycling and give you the answers you’re desperately seeking.
Dear Recycling Bins,
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to throw less away, and reuse things as much as I can. I have a garage full of old items including pieces of furniture that are doing nothing but collecting dust. I’d love to breathe some new life into at least some of my old junk but I have no idea about where to start!
Thank you for your question. The new year is the perfect time to sort out your clutter once and for all, but you can do this without sending a load of waste to landfill.
Have you considered upcycling? Upcycling is taking your old and unwanted items and turning them into something new and useful. Recycling is great (obviously) but sometimes with recycling, there can be a reduction in the quality of the materials once they’re recycled. With upcycling, you’re taking something and making it better.
Upcycling flies in the face of our throwaway society. We are conditioned to think that once something is no longer useful, it should be thrown away, when really, with a little creativity and imagination, most things can be repurposed to make something useful and unique.
So before you throw something away, think about whether your junk could be turned into treasure. Here are some creative ideas for recycling things you might have lying around the house.
Do you have an old ladder lying around in the shed or garage that’s a bit worse for wear and no longer fit for use? Before you send it to the tip, why not sand it down, give it a lick of paint, and turn it into a set of trendy shelves or bookshelves?
Do you have an old chest of drawers that’s seen better days? If you’re not up to doing a full refurbishment job (more on that later), you can make use of the drawers. Give them a lick of paint and turn them into trendy planters.
A word on upcycling furniture
If you have old furniture that looks a little scruffy and doesn’t quite fit in with your modern décor, it seems a shame to just throw it away. In general, older furniture was built to last, unlike some of the mass produced items on the market today. Before you throw away that old bedside table or chest of drawers, consider upcycling them to give them a new lease of life. Using your creativity can be a lot of fun and another bonus is you’ll have a completely bespoke piece of furniture in your home that nobody else will have.
If you’re feeling a little creative and you want to give upcycling a go, but you have no idea about where to start, here are our top tips on upcycling furniture.
Give it a general tidy up
Sand down any rough surfaces, tighten up any wobbly parts like loose legs or handles, and check for any obvious flaws you can mend.
Give it a lick of paint
If you have a piece of furniture that looks a bit worn and tired, but its in pretty good shape apart from that, all it might need is a lick of paint to bring it up to date. Before you paint it, you’ll need to remove any finish or paint that’s already on it so that your new choice of colour can be absorbed. Use sandpaper for jobs that need a lighter touch and use an electric sander for heavy duty jobs. Another note about painting; make sure you invest in good quality brushes so that you won’t have lots of shedding bristles ruining your perfect paint job.
Decide on the perfect finish
When you want to upcycle something, think about the overall look of the room it’s going to be in. If you want to create a pretty shabby chic feel, chalk paints in pastel colours can look great. Remember that lighter colours create a light airy feel and the illusion of space, which is something to think about if space is at a premium.
If your home has a modern feel, you can always use bold shades of paint to make your piece of furniture into a unique and eye-catching feature.
Once you’ve painted your piece, wait until the final coat is dry then apply a clear wax to create a smooth, virtually scratch-proof surface.
What if the furniture is made from beautiful wood and you don’t want to paint it?
There’s no need to completely ruin that beautiful oak chest of drawers with another coat of paint. Sometimes the thing that really restores a piece of furniture to its former glory is removing any paint and exposing the natural wood.
Sand the furniture down, or invest in some paint remover if the paint is quite thick. Take care when using paint remover as it contains strong chemicals. Once the paint has been removed, treat it with some varnish to bring out the colour and give it a glossy finish.
When it comes to upcycling furniture, it’s all in the details
So once you’ve given your furniture a bit of tlc and a lick of paint, it’s time to add those final details and finishing touches to your masterpiece. Change handles and knobs on drawers, line drawers with pretty wallpaper and add any other details to style your piece. Now all you have to do is stand back, admire your handiwork, and be glad that you saved something precious from landfill.