“Nostalgic Recycling”

The other day I read about a company which was going to discontinue putting cardboard tubes in the middle of toilet paper rolls. It made me reflect on all the uses we had as kids for them. And then I thought of many other items which we happily reused for craft and toy projects. With the exception of apparently disappearing toilet paper cardboard tubes, all these items have vanished from our shelves, having been replaced by plastic. Near our home a large craft store sells kits to make the things we used to make for free from discarded packaging.

Metal coffee cans had numerous uses. The most common one when I was young was as a base for stilts. Turned upside down, equipped with loops of rope, two cans made simple and sturdy platforms to stand on and stomp around. Smaller ones were used in the kitchen to steam brown bread and in the work room to  store nails and bolts. An old neighbor used many for picking huckleberries. Now coffee comes in plastic, of much less practical use.

Cardboard egg cartons went to school to be cut apart and made into Christmas ornaments. These hung from pipe cleaners, taken from home from our fathers’ supplies. No modern colorful pipe cleaners sold not for pipes but solely for crafts, ours were always white. The plastic egg cartons sold in my store are simply tossed out.

Baby food came in little glass jars. These were highly prized by teachers, Girl Scout leaders and Sunday School teachers. They could store individual colors of poster paint. They could be filled with rocks and sand to make tiny landscapes. We used them to contain homemade candles. Discarded baby food pouches of today have no utility.

In addition to these, we used the cardboard from my father’s shirts for many projects, his wooden cigar boxes for treasure chests, wooden fruit crates for toys and dismantled and reassembled many other things we found around. We spent time rubbing crayons on paper placed over the embossed front cover of old books. And of course our Halloween costumes were never purchased, but always hobbled together from old clothes.

Was it better in the “olden days?” It was certainly less expensive and obviously, though inadvertently, very Eco-conscious.


23 thoughts on ““Nostalgic Recycling”

  1. I will nail my colours straight to the mast, and say “Of course it was better in those ‘olden days’!
    We reused everything. From jars to store nails, to cardboard and such for school model projects. Out of date tinned foods were given at the Harvest Festival, in the knowledge that they would still be safe to eat.
    Old wood was used by my dad for toys of all sorts, from wooden swords, to carts and scooters. I got them for Chiristmas and birthdays, and was always delighted.Even discarded bottle tops were used, as colourful decorations.
    Now they buy everything new, and buy it again next year, after throwing away the perfectly good items from last year.
    That’s the essence of why we have the ecological problems of today.
    Spot-on, Elizabeth! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.


    1. I used to make little badges by pulling the cork off the back of bottle tops and putting it behind my shirt with the metal part on top. We had great fun with an array of bottle cap badges. There certainly was much less garbage from packaging or cheap toys.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The best kind of recycling! Actual creative reuse! And now we find that plastic isn’t actually being recycled or perhaps better to say is not recyclable. Instead it’s showing up in tiny bits and pieces everywhere destroying the ocean and atmosphere too!


  3. I’ve never understood how pouches could be better than glass. I hope that pressure from consumers bring back some old fashioned practical packaging.

    Of course, our local Walmart was completely out of TP today, so I suppose the cardboard tube issue would be moot.


  4. I loved your list of things you recycled. I hadn’t thought of cigar boxes in decades! My dad smoked cigarettes, not cigars, but we always had several cigar boxes in the house. I wonder where we got them. How I wish I had a few now!


  5. Such a great post, for us who love nostalgia and finding ways to save $$$. When I was in a US Army leadership school, we put coffee cans in the bottom of our pant leg before ‘blousing’ them. It helped make a straight cuff edge all the way around each leg and looked good for inspection. Of course, if we weren’t careful when we walked, we could sound like the ‘Tin Man’ if our legs banged together. 🤪


  6. Even now I can’t throw away an attractive box or jar. It’s there taking up space till I find a use for it (mostly storing other things I ought to throw away but might find a use for one day).
    Here in the UK we had Blue Peter on children’s TV showing us one thousand and one things to do with a carboard roll or cereal box or washing-up liquid bottle…
    Then there were the Mother’s Day gifts and Father’s Day presents that came home from nursery and primary school, not to mention the Christmas decorations.


  7. Interesting, Elizabeth. Our eggs still come in cardboard trays which I used to use for Sunday School art classes. I also used the toilet roll inserts which we still get. Our coffee still comes in cans or glass bottles.


  8. I am taken aback by the “environmentally aware” moderns. The seem to go apoplectic at the idea od plastic straws then tolerate major appliances that fail in less than 6 years. I remember when refrigerators would last so long that they went out of style.


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