Re-use & Recycle

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Here are a few re-use & recycling options for building & DIY leftovers.

DIY Uses

Plasterboard & plaster

  • Add to heavy soils to improve porosity & plant growth
  • Papercrete
  • A slice of plasterboard can be used as a stick of chalk.

Lightweight internal doors

  • Shelf units for garage/shed use
  • Add legs or blocks for a kid's bed or table
  • Put between a pair of racking units as computer desk + bookshelves

Bricks, new

  • Barbecue
  • Parking stops for car wheels
  • Flower bed edging

Bricks, damaged

  • Brick dust increases the strength of cement by pozzolanic action. Tumble bricks in mixer to produce dust. Add brick dust to cement mixes.
  • Red brick dust colours concrete
  • Brick dust & grit can be used in papercrete

Broken tiles

  • Smash with a hammer, use the small pieces for mosaic work, eg a mosaic border. Put tiles upside down when breaking.
  • Tumble tiles in mixer with a brick (or other hard weight) to produce dust and small aggregate. Mix into concrete for indoor use as porous aggregate.

Milk Bottles

  • Cut the base off to make both a small tray and a water-scoop.
  • Cut a hole in the side, near the bottom :-
    • Without the lid, fit over a bath-tap to help filling a large bucket,
    • With the lid pierced as a force-fit to a plastic tube, use similarly or otherwise to re-route dripping water.
  • Skittles, vases, etc.


  • These react with cement to increase set strength. They thus permit reduced cement use.
  • Upto 30% of cement powder may be substituted with a pozzolan.
  • Pozzolan needs to be very finely ground to be effective
  • Long dry mixing time is needed to ensure very thorough mixing
  • Pozzolan cements are prone to corroding copper pipe


  • 3 or 4 make a compost bin or potato planter.
  • Rarely they're made into fencing
  • kids play house - they can build it
  • Sheds
  • Some people reuse the timber for lots of things

12mm & 18mm chipboard

  • Loft flooring (12mm is for non habitable use only)
  • Shelves, either long ones or small corner shelves.
  • Very narrow strips of chip, ply, wood & mdf can be used as card shelves or spice shelves. Fix with 1" brackets.

Brick acid


  • Paint
  • Plaster
  • Plasticiser in mortar
  • Mortar for repointing

Earth rod

  • Curtain pole
  • Novel bathroom lockbolt
  • cleans moss & weeds from block paving

Plastic tub

  • General purpose bucket
  • With lid: suitable container for lime putty
  • With secure lid (or duct tape): add 1 or 2 strips of wood and use it as a simple free cement mixer.

Masonry nails

  • Enable plants to climb walls

Cable offcuts

  • Small pieces:
  • make a battery with lemon segments as a kids project
  • Place bare copper across a roof to prevent moss growth

Dead drill bits

Dead power tools

  • Lead can make an extension lead. Remove the plug or store very securely, to inhibit inadvertent self-electrocution by the incautious.
  • Drill chucks are reusable. Open the chuck jaws, remove the screw down the centre, and the chuck unscrews.
    • Add an sds adaptor and you can use it in an sds drill.
  • Bearings often usable for projects.

Electrical accessories

  • Re-use square pin accessories in outbuildings
  • Round pin sockets can be added to new lighting circuits to enable plugin lamps to be controlled by the lighting wall switch. However the appearance & reliability of new ones is much preferred.
  • Round pin socket systems & fusebox can be left in place and supplied from 12v or 24v and used to run small appliances, lamps etc. Eliminates many wallwarts. 2 voltages may be fed down one 3 core cable, eg 6v & 12v.
  • Round pin sockets can be used for loudspeaker wiring, either 8 ohm or 100V line.


  • Re-use small tins of grotty old (waterbased) colours by adding a little to white emulsion to make pastel colours.
  • Re-use disliked colours of emulsion by changing the tint with other coloured paint, and adding white to lighten it.
  • Donate to local school for art and craft use
  • Dip tool handles in gloss paint to identify tools and discourage theft
  • Papercrete
  • Make coloured mortar by adding emulsion to the mortar mix.

Weeds, leaves, clippings etc

  • Apply to ground to feed plants & as mulch
  • grow a new hedge: stick tree/hedge clippings in ground, keep shaded and watered. 25% success rate is typical for 18" hardwood cuttings, so plant sticks closely.
  • Grow a new plant border for free: stick lots of assorted clippings in ground, keep shaded and watered.
  • Nettle tops make nice soup if fresh growth
  • A pile of twigs & branches houses wildlife over winter, which eat lots of garden pests in the summer.


  • Cardboard: weedkilling ground blankets
  • Cardboard, b&w newspaper: Compost heap if torn
  • Wallpaper, lining paper: kids art paper (use reverse of wallpaper)
  • All paper: Papercrete


  • same use as Broken tiles


  • Many things can be constructed from plastic pipe. See Make Things from PVC Pipe
  • Metal pipe also makes various goods
  • Cut into short pieces (2-3") and screw to wall as tool holder
  • Cut into short pieces and let the kids solv weld them together side by side to make a desk tidy
  • Large quantities of flexible pipe can make an effective solar preheater for very little.
  • Wacky brackets


  • Paths
  • On flower beds
  • Weight down planters with gravel in the base. Aids drainage & makes them harder to steal.


  • Yellow sand: kid fun. Red sands tend to stain.
  • Add to heavy soils to improve porosity/drainage

Grinder discs

  • Small worn down discs enable a grinder to get into some places a full disc can't.
  • Hand grindstone
  • Dead Diamond Discs: Repair plates for damged timber

Expanded polystyrene


  • Make a mould of a small items, cast a few replicas in cement mortar or plaster, build them into a new wall for decoration.

Expanding foam

  • Make fake dog turds, kids love them. Just let some drop in one spot, don't move the nozzle around and it shapes itself the same way a real one does.

Breeze blocks


  • Path surface
  • Path base
  • Add to mortar, crushed or whole
  • Washed clinker is used in plant cultivation


  • Paths
  • Woodash is an unbalanced fertiliser when used in small amounts. A layer inches thick kills all plants.
  • Coal ash is a main ingredient in black mortar, but this is best only used to match existing pointing. Black mortar is prone to premature failure sometimes, so is not recommended for general uses.


  • Secondary glazing
  • Solar panel - a huge range of types and designs exist, see [1]
  • Shed window
  • Small toughened glass sheet: hygienic chopping board
  • Sparkly concrete surface for moulded concrete: break glass into small bits (mixer & brick), place some in mould & pour in concrete.
  • use as concrete aggregate
  • Glass cullet is even being used as garden mulch now. Tumble it to remove sharpness.


  • A lot of substandard and damaged timber can be used in stud walls.
  • Small pieces are usable as noggings
  • Rarely it can be worth gluing bits together to use for stud wall uprights.
  • Wood strips 4mm or more thick can be used as very light shelves.
  • Large quantities of short pieces can make a shed or playpen using a lattice or geodesic dome construction. A good kids project.
  • See Ash

Clay & Clay Subsoil

  • Use in making concrete blocks
  • Papercrete
  • Adobe building blocks
  • Cob walls.
  • Cast earth
  • If you roll a sausage with it and can dangle the end of the sausage over the edge of your hand, and it bends over without breaking off, its probably good enough for pottery. Offer such clay to someone that uses clay, eg a school.
  • Clay subsoil also makes clay plaster, which is a usable plastering material.
  • Make a mud oven in the garden. (Cooks & looks better than a barbecue.)
  • Small clay goods may be baked by putting them in a coal fire once completely dry.


  • Assorted insulation scraps can be packed round the hot water cylinder to reduce summer heat loss
  • Don't bury the cable feeding an immersion heater in insulation
  • Scraps of polystyrene (eg clean food containers), bubblewrap, packaging peanuts and scrap cloth can be included

Other Uses


  • Kids are not usually recommended for re-use, but they can use many scrap building materials for play. They can learn to tile, make cement, plaster or breeze block ornaments, wendy houses, tree houses and so on. Some especially like creating mosaics.
  • A small minority of kids have good concrete reinforcing properties.



  • Sometimes people will take wood away free for burning.

Concrete blocks

Many materials can be included in the mortar mix for blocks. Many of them affect the final block properties, and the additions should be suitable for the job the blocks will be used for.

Also almost any non-expanding material can be put into the middle of concrete blocks to reduce cement use and dispose of it free.

Usable materials include:

  • glass (preferably broken into cullet)
  • plaster (preferably powdered)
  • mashed or shredded paper
  • bricks (broken up or dust)
  • tiles (broken up)
  • crockery (broken up)
  • water based paints, eg emulsion
  • broken up hard plastics (thermoset)
  • gravel & stone waste
  • angle grinder grit discs (not diamond or TC)
  • breeze blocks (broken up)
  • clinker
  • ash (but not coal ash, it reduces block life expectancy)
  • rubble (broken up)
  • silt
  • clay, if poorer handling properties are acceptable
  • gone off cement can be added as an inert filler, in small amounts
  • lime
  • chalk (broken up)
  • sawdust
  • rocks (for foundations)

See Also