How to Recycle and Reuse Maker Space Materials

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In honor of Earth Day and Month, let’s take a quick look at ways to reuse, recycle, and/or donate your maker space tools and supplies.

Before we dive in, it is important to note that every city, county, and state has a different structure for recycling and disposal. Having your facility’s contact information on-hand is really helpful when you are cleaning out your maker space. If you don’t know where your local facility is, there are several directory sites online (like Recycle Nation) that can help you find one. They should also be able to point you to donation sites who take unrecyclable materials.

Paper

The degree to which paper can be recycled depends on the shape the fiber is in. While most paper is recyclable, any paper with grease, oil, or liquid on it needs to be thrown away or composted. This means that those lovely paintings will need to be trashed. Wax, plastic, or foil-coated paper also can’t be recycled, it will also need to be trashed. Since tissue paper is already a low fiber paper, it is not efficient to recycle. It’s best to reuse or donate any extra tissue paper. Some locations will compost tissue paper, but check with your local center to see if it is true for you. To reuse extra unrecyclable paper, try one of these activities: Tissue Paper Night-Lights, Plantable Paper, Solar Oven, and Paper Bowls Made from Recycled Paper.

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Copper Wire

To recycle copper you will have to bring it to the recycling center. You can also sell copper wire as scrap metal. Call your local recycling or scrap center for prices and more information. The value will depend on factors like if it still has insulation, fittings, or brass connectors. If you simply want to reuse your copper wire, try one of these projects: Heart-Shaped Popcorn BirdfeederBubble Wands, and Electromagnetic Train.

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Clay 

While ceramic clay dries out, it can be revived. Let clay scraps soak in water for a few days, stir the mixture once or twice a day. After a few days, drain the water, let the clay dry out a little, and then massage it to its former self. Once fired, the clay can’t be recycled. If you can safely break the fired item, you can reuse the pieces in a mosaic! To get hands-on with clay try these DIY projects: Heart-Shaped Clay BowlsHand-shaped Dish, and DIY Sundial. Clay is also used in these projects: Thermal Powered Flower, Cartesian Diver, and Bottle Cap Bots.

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Magnets

You can’t recycle magnets. So, if you have a stack of magnets in your maker supply stash, you should try to use or repurpose them. Magnetic Slime, Floating Magnetic Compass, Magnetic Experiment, and Magnetic Hearts are fun projects that use magnets.

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Pens and Permanent Markers

You cannot recycle most pens and permanent markers at local facilities, but you can donate your pens to the Pen Guy Art. He reuses them to build cool recycled sculptures! If you simply have too many of them, give them away to charity or use them in a DIY project. Check out our pen and permanent marker DIYs: Personalized SoftballsSharpie Pen Tie DyePaper Plate Math and Alphabet Game, and Starry Night Constellations.

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LED Lights

Many LED lights can be recycled, but be sure to check the packaging. How you recycle them depends greatly on your location. You may need to take them to the recycling center or it may be alright to add to a pick-up. If the LEDs are still working, you can use them in DIYs like Terrarium Ornaments, Ping Pong Glow Lights, Graphite Circuit, and Light-Up Cards.

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Wood

While untreated wood (like craft sticks) and twigs from the yard can be recycled, where and how depends on your local facility. Treated or painted wood can not be recycled. You should try to reuse it or donate to a nonprofit who needs art supplies! For DIY projects that use wood, check these out: Chalkboard Painted Block Puzzle, Egg Blocks, and Flower Press.

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Crayons

While you can’t recycle crayons, you can donate or reuse extra or broken ones. The Crayon Initiative revives unwanted crayons and donates them to hospital art programs. The program is usually run through schools and restaurants, so ask around to see if your local school is a part of their initiative! You can also reuse your bits and pieces of crayon in these DIYs: Melted Crayon Rocks, Porthole Scratch Art, Melted Crayon Sun Catchers, and Recycled Crayon Sun Catchers.

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Markers

ColorCycle is a bulk marker recycling program run by Crayola, ask your school if they have a collection station. The Prang Power program by Dixon Ticonderoga will recycle your markers for you, just fill up a box with markers and send it over. If you just have too many (un-dried out) markers, try to donate them to a local nonprofit or get crafting with these DIYs: Magic Marker Color Experiment, Stained Glass Mosaic Necklaces, Zipline Butterfly, and Paper Plate Fraction Puzzles.

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Scissors

If the plastic handle is broken, try to safely separate the plastic from the metal. The plastic will most likely need to be tossed, but the metal pieces can be given to a local scrap metal drive. If the blades are just dull, there are several ways to sharpen them. The simplest is to cut through layers of aluminum foil or sandpaper. Try to save aluminum foil you use throughout your week, so that you are reusing it! You can also purchase a sharpening stone. If you don’t need the scissors anymore or they are now too small for your kids, look for a local nonprofit to donate to like FreeArts!

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Share with us your maker space recycling habits and techniques in the comments below!

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