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Although recycling is one of the best ways to keep garbage from building up in landfills, saving our environment, it should actually only be used as a last resort once you’ve already reused old containers and products until they’ve worn out. But one of the biggest amounts of waste that we generate through our daily lives is paper. From bags to toilet paper rolls to egg cartons, we recycle a lot of paper that could be used for other purposes before we throw it in the recycle bin. Here are a few ideas to help you reuse old paper products before you recycle.

How to Reuse Old Paper Products to Save Money and the Environment

Toilet Paper, Paper Towel, and Wrapping Paper Rolls

These little rolls of cardboard may seem pretty useless, but they can actually come in handy—and not just as pretend swords for your kids to play with.

  • Cord keeper: Fold up electrical and appliance cords and stuff them into a toilet paper roll, keeping your cords out of the way.
  • String/yarn winder: Use old paper rolls for wrapping string and yarn around. The next time you’re looking for the end of the string, you won’t have to dig through a bundle of loose knots; it will be organized and clean.
  • Document roll: If you have important documents you want to keep crease-free and safe, roll them up and put them inside a roll. Then you can label the outside of the roll so you know what’s in each one.
  • Kazoo: You can teach your kids to reuse and have fun at the same time by making kazoos. All you need is a toilet paper roll, some wax paper, and a rubber band. Check out this tutorial video to learn more.

Paper Bags

You may think that getting paper instead of plastic at the grocery store is being environmentally friendly because you can recycle the paper, right? But, actually, the process of making paper bags releases more toxins into the environment than does making plastic bags. But don’t feel bad, here are some ways you can put those bags to use for good.

  • Book covers: Whether you want to cover your kids’ textbooks or simply protect your own hard covers from damage, use your old grocery store paper bags to create covers you and your kids can decorate together. Here’s a wonderful tutorial.
  • Remove wax from carpet: Did you accidentally drip candle wax on the family room carpet? Place a non-dyed piece of paper bag over the wax and lightly apply heat with an iron. Keep moving the paper around to absorb the wax as it heats up, as shown in this tutorial.
  • Keep bread fresh: Did you know that your bread will stay fresher stored inside a paper bag than inside a plastic one? Putting your bread in a paper bag lets the bread “breathe,” allowing the crust to stay crisp and the center to stay moist.
  • Carry and store items: It’s a bag, why not just use it as it was meant to be used—to carry and store items.

Egg Cartons

These oddly shaped containers come in handy for a number of different uses.

  • Trash bag reinforcement: Placing an open egg carton at the bottom of your trash bag will help keep it from getting punctured or breaking.
  • Organizer: Those little egg compartments are great for organizing and storing small items from paper clips to screws and nuts to jewelry, doll accessories, and more.
  • Packaging: Although shipping your niece’s Christmas presents off in an egg carton might seem odd, old egg cartons actually make a great substitute for packing peanuts. And because they are lightweight, they’ll add little, if any, charge to your shipping costs.

Remember, it’s better to reuse than to recycle. And now, with these tips, you can reuse your paper products until they really need to head to the recycle bin.

*Gunter Jameson writes about several topics including travel, minimalism and Online Schools.*