How to "Waste" Paper

comments (14) January 19th, 2009     

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Jeff_Rudell Jeffery Rudell, contributor
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Keep your old magazines from ending up in a landfill by putting them to work as colorful trash receptacles. When you need a change of pace, just tear off a sheet to reveal a new page, a new color, or a new look.
With use, the edges and surface of this trash can will wear to a suedelike texture and acquire the slouch of a canvas bag.
An issue of your favorite periodical and a handful of grommets are all you need to create this one-of-a-kind container.
Keep your old magazines from ending up in a landfill by putting them to work as colorful trash receptacles. When you need a change of pace, just tear off a sheet to reveal a new page, a new color, or a new look.

Keep your old magazines from ending up in a landfill by putting them to work as colorful trash receptacles. When you need a change of pace, just tear off a sheet to reveal a new page, a new color, or a new look.

Photo: Jeff Rudell
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For years I had used an old wicker basket as a trash receptacle beneath my craft table. I believe the piece began life as a small porch stool or side table, but when I found it curbside in New York many years ago, it looked like a basket to me so I rescued it and christened it a trash can.

From the beginning it was an unhappy relationship. To start with, the piece had been painted many times so it was thick with globs of latex and not a very attractive thing to look at each day when I entered my studio. Furthermore, everything from dirt, eraser residue, and pencil shavings went right through the bottom and always left a pile of messy debris to be swept up off the floor. Flecks of paint would fall off it whenever I touched it, and I would end up tracking these all over the house. Worst of all, the wicker had started to come unwoven along its edge, which meant I risked getting stabbed each time I reached for it.

Over the holidays, a friend remarked that my basket would make a perfect complement to some patio furniture he'd picked up at a flea market. Happy to pass the piece along to a new home, I reached down to hand it to him only to have it thank me with one final, very painful sliver that I am still trying to work out of my thumb.

A few days later, still sporting a Band-Aid, I went off to the store to see if I might find a replacement trash can. All that was on offer were neon-colored plastic models or chintz-patterned fiber-board pieces. If the styles weren't deterant enough, the prices certainly were: The least expensive one among them was $26; the most expensive one was more than $60. For...a...trash...can! For a small trash can!

So home again home again, I came, brow knit with indignation and jaw set with determination. I rifled through my tool box and poked around my closets until I came up with an idea and ample materials to do the job myself. The result is a vast improvement over my old wicker basket and, as crafters everywhere know, there is little that comes close to the satisfaction of making something for yourself. That I was able to do so without spending a dime made me doubly happy.

All you will need to mimic my success is an old magazine (one with good-quality, high-gloss pages works best) and a grommet setter. If you don't have a grommet setter—and don't want to invest in buying one—nearly the same results can be achieved using a hole punch and some plastic zipper-ties similar to those used to bind together wires and cables.

I did a little experimenting and found that approximately 10 standard magazine pages offered enough heft to give my project the structure I wanted. Feel free to use more pages if you would like your basket to be more rigid. Also, when deciding what pages should adorn the exterior of your piece, try to find pages that are either colorful or have a pretty pattern. With a little patience and some elbow grease, you can transform a handful of trash into a handsome trash can.

A stack of old magazines and 15 grommets are all you need to make a unique and useful trash can of your own. Different size magazines will result in different size receptacles, of course, so feel free to make one as large or as small as you need.


Using a straightedge and a craft knife, carefully remove the binding of your magazine. You will need 10 stacks of 10 pages each (that's 100 pages total) to make this project. Choose your pages for their interesting images or vivid colors.


Once you've selected 10 stacks of 10 pages each, cut holes in all four corners of five of these stacks. In the remaining five stacks, cut holes ONLY in the top corners and add a 5-inch-long center cut that runs up from the bottom edge of the pages.


A stack of 10 pages cut as indicated in the image on the far left will form the sides of my trash can. A stash of 10 pages cut as indicated in the image on the right will form the lower 1/3 of the can and the bottom.


To keep multiple pages in place while cutting the grommet holes, I nailed them to a piece of wood using a small brad.


With your pages held in place, center the grommet-hole cutter over the nail head and hammer it firmly to cut your holes.


When you remove the hole cutter, the cutouts will remain nailed to the board. This will ensure that you get perfect registration for all of your holes. Repeat for each hole you need to cut.


Once all of your holes have been cut, begin to assemble your pages with grommets as per the directions that came with your grommet tool.


I recommend laying all of the components out on the floor before assembling. I found it best to overlap the verticals first (A over A, B over B, etc.) before overlapping he horizontals (F over F, G over G, etc.). When all pages are in position, begin to install your grommets.


  Turn your trash can upside down and fold over each of the 10 "half-flaps" to form the bottom. Adding grommets to the bottom is best done from INSIDE the receptacle. If setting bottom grommets is too cumbersome for you, try using hot glue.


Before cutting and fastening my grommets, I added a thin piece of chipboard (the cardboard backing off an old pad of drawing paper) to give added heft and structure to the bottom of my can. However, this addition is not necessary as the piece will stand quite well without it.


My finished trash can measures approximately 12 inches x 15 inches. It is sturdy, yet flexible, and looks beautiful beneath my craft table.


I selected brightly colored pages for the surface of my trash can. If ever I tire of this look, I need only tear off the outermost sheets to reveal a new look lurking underneath.


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Comments (14)

cooproduct writes: Hi Jeff,

This is also such a good product with a great set of instructions. Can I ask if you would consider also listing this on our website:

We are a new organisation in the UK who are focusing on packaging reuse and open design. We are currently looking for exemplar projects which really demonstrate how you can turn a material that is normally regarded as waste, into a valuable product. We think this idea is exactly that!

Thank you

Posted: 4:55 am on May 18th
lkaren writes: Oh, how far into the page should the grommet holes be punched to ensure the basket is tight once assembled? Thanks!
Posted: 9:37 pm on March 18th
lkaren writes: I love this waste basket and attempted to make it. In fact, I've attempted to make a couple of your crafts. They are pretty easy, but I'm a person who follows step-by-step, specific instructions, yet I've found that your guidelines seem to leave out very necessary steps (which I haven't figured out). In this waste basket, it seems as if the bottom flaps have grommet holes punched in them, but your example doesn't show that. Please advise. Thanks1
Posted: 9:33 pm on March 18th
susan72 writes: Jeffry You are an amazing man. You out do some of us, Just saw a video on white flowers., Michelle was super! All your products Ive seen I wiull make. The Baskets!! Thank you. Susan J
Posted: 3:25 pm on January 29th
TerraEden writes: Rudell's posts are always my favorites! However, if you make his Waste Paper Basket, follow Jeffery's instructions! If he says stacks of 10 pages (or more), don't use 6. If he says use grommets or zip ties, don't use a stapler. I ended up with a very laughable piece of abstract art rather than a waste bin. So ugly that I will not be sharing a picture of it!
Posted: 4:33 pm on April 7th
wildenfunky writes: Jen W!! You took the words right out of my mouth!! Every last one of them. Jeffery, you never fail to amaze me! I've been down in South Africa for three weeks and have missed a lot of catching up to do with this divine website, very exciting! Cheers Adrien
Posted: 10:02 am on February 2nd
b_ziacoma writes: Interesting idea...
Posted: 8:03 pm on January 28th
2manyideas writes: Love this! Want this! Will have to make this out of all those magazines I have stacked up in the corner! I might even use mine as an unusual housewarming gift container.
Posted: 7:32 pm on January 21st
JenniferStern writes: This is the perfect "after life" for some of the pages and inspiring cover shots from my extra large size W Magazine ...Plus it will look great in my sewing room! Thanks Jeffrey

Posted: 12:16 pm on January 21st
FaveCrafts writes: I'm always looking for a way to recycle old magazines. What a great idea! Thanks.
Posted: 4:33 pm on January 20th
DudeCraft writes: Nicely done. I always love your stuff.
Posted: 10:24 am on January 20th
mimioka writes: Wow !!! this is a differnt way to recicle Magazines.

Posted: 8:41 am on January 20th
gardenpartynyc writes: do you think this could work as a lampshade?

Posted: 5:47 pm on January 19th
Jen_W writes: This is incredible. I have a craft crush on your brain! And I love your choice of magazine for your waste basket.
Posted: 12:31 am on January 19th
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