Not just for food: How to reuse plastic takeaway containers in the home and garden
From planting to organising the kids’ room, there are lots of ways to keep plastic out of landfill
Most plastics can be recycled only once or twice to make a new product before they eventually end up in landfill. Photograph: iStock
When restaurant dining rooms closed during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, takeaway took off. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene (PP) plastics used in food and drink containers are recyclable, but we know that reducing and reusing is a far better policy. Most plastics can be recycled only once or twice to make a new product before they eventually end up in landfill.
Maybe you kept a few to store food, but here are some ways to reuse disposable containers outside the kitchen.
You may have come across these compostable sugarcane containers with clear plastic lids. Stab a few drainage holes in the bottom, fill with soil and press in seeds 2cm deep and 4cm apart. Put the lid back on to create a mini greenhouse in the cool months and remove it once you see sprouts. When the seedlings have their first true leaves (the leaves after the initial two), they can be repotted – or simply bury the entire container, as it will decompose. Use plastic cutlery (which is not recyclable due to its weight) as stakes to help plants grow straight. Hold on to all-plastic containers to use as much-needed water baths for birds and insects in summer.
Cylindrical plastic containers are a cheap alternative to ceramic pots. Punch a hole in the bottom, wrap them in butcher’s paper and twine, wrapping paper or old fabric (like the cuff of a jeans’ leg); add soil and a small cactus or succulent, and place on a plate to catch drained water. Just make sure you don’t wrap the bottom or it will rot. Decorate bowl containers similarly and you have an accident-proof spot for your keys by the door or dried flowers or air plants on your coffee table.
Compartmentalise your drawers and prevent cable tangles with individually labelled containers. Prepackaged chargers come in handy when travelling.
Everything can be organised and labelled in stackable, lightweight containers – and they’re portable. Glue some flat Lego pieces to the underside of a plastic lid to act as a base, fill the container with blocks, and you have on-the-go entertainment. Lids also make great paint palettes that are easy to wash and reuse; or use containers as trays for paint rollers.
Bathroom and laundry
Cleaning products can be purchased in bulk from some stores – just bring your own vessel. Opt for concentrates in small amounts and dilute at home. Sauce containers work well for mixing DIY products such as body scrub with spent coffee grounds, lip scrub, shampoo or face masks. Although it’s not much of a concern at the moment, sauce containers are usually under 100ml, so can also be used to transport very viscous beauty products like balms and gels when travelling.
If you still have a surplus, ask your local creche, primary school or arts centre if they’ll accept donations.
To find out what products are recyclable see Repak’s list on what can and can’t go in to the green bin.–Guardian