Get our free newsletter
As of late January, District residents have been getting new, wheeled recycling carts. But in an effort to encourage residents not to toss the old recycling bins out with the trash, on April 6, the Department of Public Works (DPW) issued a citizens’ advisory stating that it had “received numerous recommendations for creative reuses” of the old bins. Some of the reuse recommendations aren’t stretches of the imagination—“laundry basket” and “handy storage container” rank as Options 1 and 2, respectively—but other ideas show a flair for invention, including:
3. Using it as a lightweight toboggan on snowy days.
4. Affixing wheels and using it as a go-cart or wagon….
7. Cutting down one side (for easier access) and using it as a deep litter box.
8. Flipping the bin over, spray painting it and using it as an outdoor table next to a lawn chair.
9. Drilling holes in the rim and using it for hanging legal-size files (add wheels for greater utility).
10. Padding the inside with old towels and using is as a “birthing room” for an expectant mother cat or small dog. High sides keep new kittens or puppies safe.
Pleasantly surprised by the ReadyMade-grade resourcefulness of fellow District residents, we asked DPW spokesperson Mary Myers for help tracking down the creators of the various projects. It turns out that when DPW says “it has received suggestions,” it means its staff has made suggestions up.
According to Myers, three or four members of the DPW staff had a brainstorming session. It lasted for less than 20 minutes, meaning that there are likely other uses of recycling bins that have yet to be discovered. “You can do whatever you’d like with them,” Myers says. But she adds the caveat that “all of the uses should be tasteful.” When pressed, she confesses that she can think of some naughtier bin applications herself, “but I’m not going to tell you.”
Myers admits that many of the G-rated uses have yet to be constructed. Nobody, as far as she knows, has yet made a go-kart. Or a kitty maternity ward. Or garden furniture. And that’s a shame, because the DPW’s list of bin reuses demonstrates a level of creativity rarely associated with a government agency. So we decided to make and test out a few of the recycling bin ideas ourselves. After Jim Monsma, community-outreach director for the D.C. Humane Society, refused to lend out a cat for the kitty birthing center, we settled on two of the more ambitious projects: garden furniture and go-kart. CP
Materials: nails, two pieces of sturdy scrap lumber, screws, spray paint, casters, one
Time Required: 2 hours
Procedure: By substituting nails for screws, we not only saved at least a half-hour but also made the wheels much more prone to fall off. Which was a good thing, because there’s no way to go fast enough on a set of casters to get a thrill.
Myers Says: “I’m not 100 percent sure of the aerodynamics. But if
you were fairly small, it could work.”
Item: Garden Furniture
Materials: spray paint, reciprocating saw, one recycling bin
Time Required: 30 minutes
Procedure: As per instructions, we covered the bin with white spray paint. To make our table even more graceful, we used a reciprocating saw to cut out semicircles of plastic on the sides, creating “legs.” Somewhat disappointingly, the table was only about a foot tall and looked like a spray-painted, upside-down recycling bin.
Myers Says: “I don’t know if your neighborhood association is going to send out a petition against you [for putting the table in your yard]. I certainly hope not.”