It often uses less energy to reuse something instead of recycling. Imagination is the limit on how to reuse your junk.
Everyone has old tires that are no longer viable for a vehicle, but don’t throw them away. They can still serve the homestead well.
Tires have many uses, including planters, building blocks, fuel, paving material, roof shingles, shoes and much more. Most of the time, though, tires require quite a bit of processing to make into something else. This is due to the steel bands. If you can find tires without these bands, you have an excellent source of rubber for all sort of things.
We use old tires as small retaining walls, like around a porch. We stand them up in a little foundation trench, bolt them together, cover them with lathing, and stucco them with concrete. They are also great to retain an area that is eroding.
Tires without steel bands make a great sandal that is far more durable than anything you can buy in a store.
As the price of metals has increased, so too has the value of metal junk. You can sell any old metal, but it is often more efficient if you can use it yourself.
Sheet metal has so many uses, we couldn’t list them all, from roofing to siding to solar collectors to tubs. The uses are practically endless. Metal odds and ends are always useful, especially when you need a piece of something strong. We collect angle iron (steel), pipe, channel, and just about any piece of decent gauge (more than 1/8 inch thick) chunk of metal. You never know when you might need it. If nothing else, it is good for practicing welding.
Here’s a few ways in which we have reused old metal:
The list goes on and on.
If you can either prevent something from going into a landfill, or go and physically take something out of one, you are helping to reduce the enormous problem that waste has become.
“Puro Yonke” – pure junk – has become on of our quasi-obsessions. Before starting any project, we raid the local dumps. If we can put some landfill item to good use, we feel all warm and fuzzy inside. In fact, most of the materials we use to make wind generators come from the dump.
Reusing items is better than recycling, because you do not require additional energy to process the material into something usable. There are no added infrastructure costs and concerns. In fact, if you are reusing junk, you are helping to make the initial energy that went into the production of that material last longer and go farther. It’s not just about saving money, but more importantly, integrating your lifestyle with what is available for the least amount of cost, be it environmental or financial.
We have got the reputation for being junk hounds, and people often consult with us before they throw things out. So not only do we seek out junk, but it comes to us.
Another great source of junk is freecycle.org, where people post stuff they want to get rid of, and it’s all free.
Glass is very easy to clean and sterilize, so you should never throw it away. There is no better material for storing water, or other fluids, as glass does not take on the flavor of its contents like plastic does. Recycling glass is fairly energy intensive, so it is much better to reuse it. In the old days, and in other countries, you got paid to bring bottles back to the store. The reason they did this was that the manufacturer was able to easily sterilize the bottles and reuse them to package new products. Very efficient system, and if it was not for plastics, which appear to be so convenient, we would still be using it today.
We like to use bottles in building, putting them in the wall to let in light. They are exceptionally beautiful in sunrise and sunset, and the wind also makes a pleasant sound as it whistles past them.
For a How-To build your own jar organizer, click here.
Aluminum cans can be reused or reforged fairly easily at home, and have a multitude of purposes. Aluminum is very energy intensive to make, so reusing it is common sense.
Also, there is a market price, so you can earn a bit of cash if you take it to a central recycling center. Aluminum melts at a fairly low temperature compared to other metals, so it is a common metal used in home-built foundries. Polished aluminum is great for reflectors, solar concentrators and solar ovens.
The metal from aluminum cans is so soft and easy to cut that it makes a perfect material for arts and crafts, washers, etc. You can cut the ends off the cans, glue them together and paint them black. Put your tube out in the sun, attach a fan to one end and have the other end enter your house, making an easy solar heater.
However, one of the coolest uses for aluminum that we have found, is to make hydrogen, which can be used for all sorts of things. In short, you put the cans into a mixture of sodium hydroxide (Lye) and water. The aluminum oxidizes, taking the water’s oxygen atoms away to make aluminum oxide. That releases the hydrogen, which will rise up and can be collected.
Plastic waste is a bane to the landfills and countryside. However, it can be reused at home in all kinds of different ways. Some types of plastic can last a long time, making it good for certain types of projects.
High quality plastics we use to melt down into parts and small knobs throughout the house. You can build a small injection-molding machine quite easily, and it’s a great way to get rid of plastic bottles and wrappers. If you keep plastic out of sunlight and at room temperature, it will last for several years. Plastic is a derivative of hydrocarbons, so it is technically feasible to gasify plastic to make a fuel similar to wood gas.
For more ideas on how to reuse plastic PET bottles, click here.
Click here for how to make an organizer using plastic jars.
Waste oils have a lot of uses around the homestead, from preserving woods and brick floors to fuels for diesel engines. Oils help to waterproof things, and a little oil goes a long way on leather and wood. Most oils can be used as fuel for diesel engines, and with a little cleaning and preparation, these oils can significantly reduce your fuel bill. They produce a viable diesel alternative for your truck or tractor. We will soon be setting up a full system to use for our diesel truck. Once we have full instructions, we will make a howto.