Department of Environmental Conservation

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Many items we throw away every day have the potential to be reused for their original purposes or for new ones. Reuse allows you to get the most out of the products you buy and saves you money as well. Additionally, reusing products conserves natural resources and saves valuable landfill space.

Who Should Reuse?

Everyone should. YOU can start by reusing items for their original purposes. Buy reusable and refillable food containers. Repair broken or worn items such as appliances. Mend shoes, re-upholster furniture and patch clothing. And don't forget that if you can't use it, there's probably someone who can. Try giving clothes, magazines, furniture, etc., away. Possible recipients are nursing homes, day care facilities, schools, churches and the Salvation Army.

When you've determined that an item can't possibly be reused for its original purpose--and don't be hasty to jump to this conclusion--call on your imagination. You will soon find that much of what you thought was trash is made up of many valuable resources.

What to Reuse?

Anyone can reuse almost any material.

Paper is the largest component of our waste stream. Here are some ways to cut down the amount of paper we use:

  • Cut up one-sided flyers and use the pieces for notepaper to keep by the telephone or use for shopping lists.
  • Write your shopping lists on junk mail return envelopes, or any used envelope and carry your coupons inside the envelope.
  • Wrap postal packages in brown paper bags that you've saved.
  • Reuse gift wrap for gifts or line shelves and drawers with it.

Plastic is water-resistant, durable, lightweight and temperature tolerant. It can be very re-useful!

  • Fill empty plastic bottles (such as mouthwash bottles) with water and freeze to use in your coolers for picnics and camping.
  • Use yogurt, dip, or cream-cheese containers to hold individual portions of gelatin or pudding in the refrigerator or in a lunch pack (or use them to pack cookies and chips so they won't get crushed).
  • Reuse "microwavable" dishes for the microwave, or for picnics, bake sales or as pet dishes.

Glass can be very practical for in-home storage of just about anything.

  • Turn a large pickle jar into a cookie jar.
  • Punch holes in small jar caps to create a spice or cheese shaker.
  • Keep bits and pieces, such as screws or nails, in jars and know at a glance what's inside.

Metals are another candidate for reuse.

  • Use a tuna can with the top and bottom removed to cook a neat poached egg or use the same can as a cookie cutter.
  • Reuse aluminum foil many times.

Where to Reuse?

Anyone can reuse almost any material anywhere. Here are some ideas:

In the Home

  • Keep a sponge and towel near a roll of paper towels to remind you to only use paper towels when necessary.
  • Use stale bread for croutons, crumbs, stuffing or french toast.
  • Reuse small boxes to organize desk and dresser drawers.
  • Use rechargeable batteries.
  • Use old toothbrushes to scrub hard-to-reach places.

In the Office

  • Make two-sided copies.
  • Circulate original memos instead of making numerous copies.
  • Use one-sided scrap paper for notes and drafts.


  • Use egg cartons to grow seedlings.
  • Use dish or bath water to water the garden, especially during a drought.
  • Leave grass clippings on the lawn to serve as a mulch and fertilizer.

With the Kids

  • Give children free reign over your unwanted papers, cardboard scraps and packaging--their creativity will take over from there.

Remember the 3 R's--Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Here are a few tips:

  • Buy in bulk and in concentrated form--it saves you money and uses less packaging material.
  • Avoid disposables--they're almost always unnecessary.
  • Avoid over-packaged products.
  • Borrow or rent things you seldom use, such as power tools.
  • Give preference to items made from recycled materials or to those which are recyclable--then to be sure to recycle them!
  • Write to manufacturers and to your elected officials and express your concern for our environment.

Send Us Your Ideas

We'd like to include your ideas in future publications. Write to:

Bureau of Waste Reduction and Recycling
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-7253
(518) 402-8704