Over the years I’ve grown wary of using plastic containers for food storage and cooking. Concerns over BPA and other chemicals that leach from plastics have made me shift from plastic to glass or ceramic cookware for most of my cooking and storage needs. That leaves me with a cabinet full of plastic ware that still has plenty of life in it, but which no longer has a use in my kitchen. (I really have a lot of this stuff because when we got married everyone seemed to think the perfect gift was one of those “50 piece” plastic storage sets, despite the fact that I never registered for any of it. I’ve got more than I could ever use, even if I cooked every single thing in it forever.)
Rather than chucking it in the landfill (no one around here will recycle these types of plastics) or donating it (and thus subjecting others to possible chemical contaminants) I’ve become proactive about finding new uses for my plastic. If you’re like me, stuck with plastic you no longer want to use, here are some ideas for using your old containers that don’t involve food.
Storage/organization for non-food items
This is the most obvious use. I have containers that are small enough to make good holders for things like paper clips and small craft items. I gave a bunch of them to my husband who uses them in the garage for screws and nails. The larger containers and bowls are useful for things like organizing the medicine cabinet, corralling small utensils and tools in drawers, protecting holiday decorations, and corralling things like stain sticks, sponges, and rubber gloves in my cleaning cabinet. They are great to store dryer sheets in after the box has been opened to keep them fresh. Anything you need organized can be put in old food containers.
My husband uses a few of my larger containers out in the garage for catching fluids when he’s working on the cars. I keep a couple in the house in case of leaks under the sinks (doesn’t happen often, but when you get a drip, it’s good to have something to catch the water).
My husband took a few of the smaller ones out into the garden and now fills them with beer. The beer attracts and kills the pesky slugs that eat our veggies and I don’t care that the old containers are full of slug goo.
We use the small ones in the spring for seed starters. Even the larger ones work for this, as well, they’re just more cumbersome to move around. You can also drill holes in the bottom and use them for a permanent planter. They can be painted or decorated to make them more attractive.
The small containers work well for scooping pet food and bird seed.
Bringing in the harvest
Plastic containers are good for taking out into the garden when it’s time to pick tomatoes, beans, or any other small crop. You can drop your pickings into the container and easily bring them inside to wash. You don’t have to worry about putting the container down in the dirt because it can be rinsed off easily.
Give it to someone else
No, I’m not suggesting you subject your friends to the chemicals, but if someone has a storage need, you can give away some of your old plastic. A neighbor that had never used plastic for food purposes saw my stack of containers in my garage one day. She asked what I was doing with them and I told her that I was slowly repurposing them. She asked if she could have some of them and I happily gave them to her. She’s been using them to organize her kids’ small toys, art supplies, Legos, game pieces, doll clothes, and desk items.
We put lots of things in plastic bins when we go camping. Batteries, card games, matches, compact cameras, and napkins are just some of the things we want to keep dry and organized. They’re also useful for storing things in sheds, in cabinets of outdoor grills, or any other outdoor place that might get wet.
I keep a larger container on my counter and drop food scraps into it. The snap on lid means that no odors escape. When it’s full, I take it out to the compost heap. You can also use one to collect grease and oil that shouldn’t go down the drain.
I have cords and cables for everything. My phone, iPod, Kindle, camera, etc. all have chargers and cables. Instead of letting them fill up a drawer with a tangled mess or letting them get scattered all over the house, I roll them all up and put them in a large Tupperware container. They’re all easy to find and neatly organized.
Use the lids, too
Lids are great for putting under things like flower pots to catch leaks. I keep a small one in the bathroom so my husband can set the head from his electric toothbrush on it instead of the sink. No more messy patches to wipe up.
If you’re making the switch from plastic to glass containers, don’t just relegate your plastic to the landfill. See if you can find another use for it. Chances are, there are several places around your home where a plastic container can come in handy.
(Photo courtesy of leonorjr)