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Reusing Packaging Paper - From practical to crafty

Updated on May 31, 2014

The Rise of Kraft Paper as a Packing Material

I have begun to order more of my day to day needs in the mail, and though this is convenient, it creates more packing materials that I need to figure out how to manage. I recycle the boxes, but more and more often, my packages come stuffed with brown, kraft paper crumpled up to fill the empty space around my ordered items. For a time, I wasn't sure what to do with the packing paper - like the stuff pictured here - but I have now found the perfect use for my household.

Because the packing paper has no printing on it and no inks or dyes, it has become the perfect material at my house for starting fires in the wood stove. I love that we can use it that way so it doesn't go to waste! Our use got me curious about what other ways people have used or could use it, so I have curated some ideas on this page to help others find a use for packaging paper that works for them. I hope you find one you like!

Photos on this page are my own unless otherwise credited.

Upcycling Inspiration!

Upcycling: Create Beautiful Things with the Stuff You Already Have
Upcycling: Create Beautiful Things with the Stuff You Already Have

What do I love most about this book? The way it gets my own creative juices flowing! It's chock full of so many creative ideas, I can't help but see the old "junk" in my home and garage in a whole new light. I like to use some of Seo's ideas, and let them inspire me to try out a bunch of my own. Get this book for the ideas or the inspiration... whatever your reason, get this book!


"Every act of creation is first an act of destruction." - Picasso

My Simple Way to Give a Second Life to Packing Paper

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Crumpled packing paper...... gets cut into sections, folded, and stacked neatly in the woodbox.From there, it becomes a fire starter on a cold winter's night.
Crumpled packing paper...
Crumpled packing paper...
... gets cut into sections, folded, and stacked neatly in the woodbox.
... gets cut into sections, folded, and stacked neatly in the woodbox.
From there, it becomes a fire starter on a cold winter's night.
From there, it becomes a fire starter on a cold winter's night.

Packing Paper Upcycling Ideas and Projects

seedling pots
seedling pots

DIY Compostable Seedling Pots

There are tons of patterns out there for how to make your own seedling pots out of old newspapers. They are quick and easy to create - I've even successfully taught small children how to make them - and they cost nothing. There's no taping or gluing, so when the time comes to plant your seedling, you can just put the whole pot in the ground. Allow the moisture, sun, soil, and Mother Nature to work their magic, and your pot - in this case made from packing paper - composts, feeding the soil and your plant while releasing the roots to dig deeper.

Find a photo tutorial for DIY Compostable Seedling Pots at Instructables or a YouTube video from Michele Made Me.

Note: You can use any number of household items to make your seedling pots different sizes - tin cans, toilet paper or paper towel rolls, bulk yogurt containers... you name it. Find the size of object you want and use it to make as many pots as you need.

lasagna gardening
lasagna gardening

Layers for Your Lasagna Garden

"Lasagna" gardening uses alternating layers of "brown" and "green" compostable materials to create a hospitable garden environment, keep weeds down, and enrich soil. Packing paper can be a "brown" (or dead material) layer - flattened and laid out on top of a green layer.

For a basic overview of how to get started with lasagna gardening, visit Urban Farm Online, or for a much more detailed version, go to Mother Earth News.

Take Upcycling to the Next Level

The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability--Designing for Abundance
The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability--Designing for Abundance

As we find more and more waste in society, and some (but not enough) of us continue to seek ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle, the authors of this book encourage us to add re-design to our vocabulary and our way of thinking. Imagine a world re-designed to improve our world, not just reduce our impact. Highly rated and inspirational, this book is a must read for every recycler and upcycler.

recycled paper basket
recycled paper basket

Recycled Paper Basket

Design Sponge created these Recycled Paper Baskets out of packing paper. The tutorial includes a detailed series of photos and instructions. I like the detail that the stitching adds and would love to play with different colors of thread in this project!

Note: If you don't have a sewing machine, or the know-how to do it, you could use some sort of flexible adhesive to create the strips. Create beautiful details some other way - with a DIY paper flower or stamping or ribbon on some of the strips.

Decorative Ideas for Using Packaging Paper - On YouTube

Paper Beads Upcycle Project
Paper Beads Upcycle Project

Hand-Dyed Paper Beads Upcycle Project

It's hard to believe, but these green beads were made from packing paper. I used white packing paper (the kind that has a little bit of a shiny finish on it) and natural brown paper. I used the same color dye, and they each took the color a little differently, which I love. It's fun to experiment with colors like that and find out how they turn out.

Anyway, anyone can make beautiful paper beads like these from packing paper that comes right to your door. No cost to use and you can make them any color you like.

Go to Hand-Dyed Paper Beads - An Upcycle Project with Gorgeous Results to learn more.

How do you reuse the paper or other packaging materials that come in the mail?

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