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Don’t Throw That Old Printout Away! 21 Projects For Used Paper

Aaron Couch 14-02-2013

paper projectsThink about it – you probably waste a lot of paper. Don’t take it personally, most of us do. But have you ever thought about what you could do to make use of some of that old paper that you throw away or even recycle?


On-Topic Tangent: What is recycling really? Is it taking a bunch of stuff, putting it in a tub and sending it to some place? Or is it reusing and extending the the life of something as much as you can first before you dispose of it? To me, that is  true recycling. But that’s just my opinion.

There are a lot of things that you can reuse in your home before getting rid of them, but today let’s talk about how you can reuse those old sheets of paper for both creative and practical purposes.

Practical Paper Projects For Reusing Paper

The great thing about paper is that it is so versatile. Some of the paper projects below will be things that may not be original to you, personally, some you maybe have never heard of, and some you may have heard of, but never done.

Simply print on the blank/unused side

If only one side has been used and the other is blank, why not just flip it over in your printer and use it instead? Of course, this depends on what you’re printing. You obviously don’t want to do this with something important, but if it’s just for your own personal use, such as printing an online receipt, then why not? It saves paper, and if done enough times, money – it all adds up.

Turn it into a paper wallet

paper projects

It might not be the most durable wallet you’ve owned (compared to leather), but it is pretty practical, while being different at the same time. Of course after creating it, you can customize it however you want, or if you’re more of a plain and simplistic person, white paper might be more your style.

Paper CD/DVD case

projects for paper

I discovered this one years ago, actually. And perhaps CDs are on their way out, but I think many of us still have the occasional case-less CD laying around. So if that’s the case (heh heh) for you, then give this a try!

Paper grocery sack book cover

This isn’t technically from a “printout”,” which would be on regular 8.5” x 11” computer paper, but I felt it still was a great way to reuse paper. All through school (from elementary through high school), I did this. Sadly, I didn’t in college and I regret it because it is a very cheap way to keep the value of your textbooks – which is the most important to do while in college.

TIP: For added durability, use duct tape, but don’t duct tape the cover to the book!

Want to add some more creativity? Use a gift bag.

Paper pen & pencil holder: 2 versions

projects for paper

I thought this was ingenious. When I thought of this one, I was pleasantly surprised to find videos of two ways to do this, let alone one.

This first video was more about the way that I envisioned it and if you can follow this little girl’s instructions through the video, I think you’ll be pretty happy with the result.
This second method is a more minimalistic approach, but it is still definitely effective. I could see this one being easily modified by mounting it somewhere, like on a refrigerator or locker door, with a magnet on either side of the paper. I’m sure it could be easily done using double-sided tape or a 3M sticky strip too.

Turn several sheets into a notepad or sketchbook

Whether you want one for jotting down quick reminders, writing stories, doodling, sketching, to-do lists, whatever, having a homemade, personal “book of paper” is pretty cool because it’s yours – you made it. Plus, being the creative type you already are (writer, artist, etc.), this only adds to your personality.

Spare sheets for whatever you need

If you’re not ambitious enough to make a book, just store a pile of paper in an unseen area for whatever you might need: quickly jotting down a phone number or directions to somewhere, or just aimlessly doodling while your mind wanders away.

Sticky notes

Sure… you could buy some – they’re not too expensive, but why not just cut up sections of paper into squares, throw some tape on the back and have a sticky note in seconds? Just keep the pre-cut paper in a desk drawer and have a tape dispenser handy so that whenever you need to stick a note somewhere, you can have one ready in seconds!

Simple bookmark

Another great idea (I think) would be making a bookmark out of a couple thin pieces of paper. By taking two or three pieces of paper and gluing or taping them together, you can make it last a lot longer! Then, if you want, punch a whole in the top for a string and you’ve got a custom bookmark in literally seconds.

Wrapping paper

Whether it’s for the holidays, a birthday or another special event where gifts are part of the ritual, wrapping paper is typically used. But usually it’s bought on impulse and then lies around (because you have way too much leftover) taking up space, or you just throw it out (no!). So, if you need some wrapping paper and you don’t have any, consider using newspaper or even regular computer printer paper if the item isn’t too big. Don’t worry about what other people think – be creative (and save money).

Shred it up! (for packing of course)

projects for paper

I suppose you could just shred it up and then allow a three year-old to throw it up in the air in joy, but that makes a mess. Instead, use it for packing material. It’s greener than packing peanuts, it gets some paper out of your house and, if the recipient is a three year-old, they can have fun cleaning up the mess instead of you. See? It’s a win-win.

Little origami boxes for little trinkets

paper projects

This was another one where I was stoked that there was a video for whenever I thought of this. There’s always a need to organize things on and inside your desk, from paperclips to thumbtacks to whatever else you want.

Greeting cards

I love making homemade cards for birthdays and any other occasion they’re needed for – they’re much more personal than store-bought ones. And while I usually make them on my computer and print them, folding one up out of a piece of paper that doesn’t quite meet the standards of printing an important document on works just as well.

You can just fold an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper in half, or for a little more durability, fold it in quarters and then decorate it however you’d like.

Creative Projects For Reusing Paper

Now on the fun ways to reuse paper. Check out these amazing videos from making a circuit to making a working crossbow… out of paper!

Nerdy: Simple paper shotgun

Even nerdier: Paper crossbow

Artsy: Crumpled paper challenge

Artsy and nerdy: Origami ninja star (double sided)

Technical: Paper circuit

Interesting: Paper fishing rod with reel

Back to your childhood: Paper airplane

Just for fun: Paper mask


Conclusion: It Doesn’t End Here

There are hundreds of uses for paper that you would have previously deemed “trash” – you just have to be creative and think about what you need and then discover how you can go about making it without spending money. The Internet is a vast place so simply searching it on YouTube or even just searching Google The Best Google Search Cheat Sheet: Tips, Operators, and Commands to Know These special Google search tips, operators, and commands will help you narrow down your search results and always get the exact results you're looking for. Read More (or your preferred search engine) is a great start. Other websites like wikiHow and Instructables are excellent resources with step-by-step instructions on creating things yourself.

What kinds of projects have you created by reusing paper? Care to suggest any modifications to the ones listed here in this article? We’d love for you to share them!

Image Credits: Torn scratch paper via Shutterstock, Wallet sketch via Shutterstock, Box of shredded paper via Shutterstock

Explore more about: Green Technology, Recycling.

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  1. tniah
    January 7, 2016 at 12:49 am

    can you make a house.

  2. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    February 17, 2013 at 11:51 am

    You can make a whole bouquet with paper. Search for flower origami instructions (I can make rose, tulip, and some others)-it works much better if your paper is colorful. If you don't like flowers, there are other decorations that can be made with origami.

    • dragonmouth
      February 17, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      "You can make a whole bouquet with paper."

      Reminds me of "Paper Roses", a 1976 song by Marie Osmond. :)

  3. Buster Olson
    February 15, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    Hint: Use Padding Glue/Compound to make your own notepads/memo pads.

  4. Kirby
    February 15, 2013 at 4:01 am

    I've been using the paper CD case for several years now. Why waste money to buy a CD case ?

    I've also placed shredded paper inside my hamster's aquarium and keep on replaceing it every week or so. It's much cheaper and easier to find than saw dust.

    Also using the back of used paper as scrap paper to take down notes and other stuff.

  5. Tyson West
    February 14, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Fifty bucks says that Aaron Couch is getting a slot on 'Hoarders' less than eleven months from now.

  6. dragonmouth
    February 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    For years I have been reusing paper in all the ways you mention except for the 3D projects. I remember, back in the last millennium, there was no commercially made pretty book covers and/or paper folders. So we made book covers and folders out of any large pieces of heavy gauge paper. We used brown paper bags and/or holiday wrapping paper. Not only is it environmentally friendly but it is also wallet friendly.

  7. Jacques Knipe
    February 14, 2013 at 7:10 am

    Oh my goodness I am going to have so much fun with this! Thanks for the awesome article! This one goes to my favorite article list.
    I always make CD cases out of the paper I can't write on anymore. Same goes for the origami, but I keep it simple (like the ninja star and origami box).

  8. Alberto Lerma
    February 14, 2013 at 5:19 am

    DUDE!! the wallet paper and cd case are awesome!! Thank you!! tomorrows gift will be 13.8% cooler!!