15 Ways to Make Art By Reusing Your Materials

So many fun ways to make your art projects eco-friendly!

Author: Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Looking for inexpensive arts and crafts? Skip the pricey supplies and reuse materials for art instead. These clever projects turn items like plastic bottles and cardboard boxes into masterpieces. It’s time to raid the recycling bin and get creative!


1. Plastic Bottle Flower Chain



Imagine strings of these decorating your classroom or hung outside for a party! They’re easy to make and there are unlimited possibilities for colors and shapes. See how it’s done here.


2. Pop Top Bracelet


Bracelet made from pop tops and green ribbon on a woman's wrist


Wearable art is called fashion! Save pop tops from aluminum cans, then choose ribbon in colors you love and string them together to make this cool bracelet. Watch the instructional video here.


3. Plastic Bottle Wind Spinners


Colorful plastic spirals made from plastic bottles (Reuse Materials For Art)


These colorful creations put a fresh spin on upcycled art. Cut plastic bottles into spirals and add color for gorgeous garden décor that changes with every breeze. Happy Hooligans has the complete how-to.


4. Bottle Cap Locket


The best things about bottle cap lockets? Whatever you choose to tuck inside! Pictures, flowers, tiny trinkets, and more make this project personal. Here’s how to make your own.


5. Paper Flower Garden


Paper flowers made from reused newspapers and magazines


Ask kids to imagine a flower they wish they could grow in their own garden. Then, let them dig through old magazines to find and cut out the pretty petals. Add stems of varying lengths and turn these blooms into a classroom bulletin board. Get the full lesson plan here.


6. Plastic Bottle Snowflake Garland


Snowflake garland made from the bottoms of plastic bottles and white paint (Reuse Materials For Art)


Snip off the bottoms of plastic bottles and add puffy paint to create snowflakes. String them on a piece of yarn and hang for charming wintry decorations. (Try adding lights for an even more festive display!) Watch the DIY video here.


7. Recycle Bin Art


Blue recycling bins decorated with reused materials like newspapers and cardboard


While you’re digging through the recycling bin to reuse materials for art, why not decorate the bin itself? When you transform your bin into a treasure, you might find it helps people remember to recycle more often. Get inspiration from other amazing decorated recycling bins here.


8. Paper Heart Mobile


Mobile made of paper hearts from magazines and newspapers (Reuse Materials For Art)


Colorful magazine and newspaper pages are a fantastic resources when you want to reuse materials for art. Craft hanging mobiles by adding string and a few shining beads to shapes cut from your favorite pages. Find the full how-to at Red Ted Art.


9. Plastic Bottle Planters


Hanging planters made from large plastic bottles (Reuse Materials For Art)


Flowers often seem like living art, so use them to your advantage with these soda bottle planters. Form a vertical garden of vibrant hues by hanging chains of planters along a breezeway or near your school’s entrance. Check out the DIY video here.


10. Bottle Cap Animals


Save your bottle caps and add details with markers, paint, and construction paper to design adorable little animal friends. Oh, and don’t forget the googly eyes! Learn how to make bottle cap animals here.


11. Cardboard Recycle Monster


Recycle monster made of cardboard surrounding a recycling bin (Reuse Materials For Art)


Here’s one more way to make over your recycle bin into a focal point. Grab a large cardboard box, some old CDs, and a few other supplies. Then build a hungry recycle monster to house your bin. Discover how to make one here.


12. Plastic Bottle Trophy


Plastic bottle upcycled into a trophy with glue and glitter


Feeling brave? Pull out the glitter and upcycle a plastic bottle into a trophy. (You can skip the glitter and just use metallic paint, if you prefer.) Use it as the prize at an upcycled materials art show!  Watch the how-to video here.


13. Milk Jug Fairy House


Fairy house made from a plastic gallon milk jug in a garden with pinecones (Reuse Materials For Art)


How cute is this adorable little fairy house? You can build your own with a gallon milk jug, basic supplies, and lots of imagination. See the details at Three Kids, Three Cats, and a Husband.


14. Bottle Cap Mosaic


Bottle cap mural by Coppell Middle School North


Bottle caps, plastic and metal, come in a wide variety of colors and designs. Collect as many as you can, then use them to assemble fabulous mosaics. Make individual designs, or try this as collaborative school art project to create a huge mural. Find complete bottle cap mosaic instructions here.


15. Reused Materials Creatures


Robots and other creatures made from upcycled and reused materials


This project encourages kids to let their imaginations roam free as they reuse materials for art. Give them a big bin of odds and ends to choose from. (Try bottles, cans, cardboard, disposable cups, wood bits, yarn and fabric remnants, paper scraps, and anything else you’ve got on hand.) Then let kids loose to construct whatever they can dream up! See more examples  at Tinker Lab.

Was this useful?

Learn More

Recycle Rally

Recycle Rally is a free K-12 program that provides rewards and tools to help enhance recycling at your school!

Explore now

Additional Resources

Our comprehensive library of resources was designed to inspire the next generation of green leaders.

Explore now