New Packaging Tells You How to Reuse It Creatively

paint tub reuse clock lamp photo

A tub of paint can be turned into a lamp (bottom) while its lid becomes a clock (top) in these creative reuse ideas by Luis Carlos Calderón. Photos:

Creative crafters can come up with all sorts of beautiful and innovative ways to turn trash into treasure. But faced with a empty plastic bottle or packing carton, most people -- even those who know reuse gets more environmental points than recycling -- are going to take the path of least resistance and chuck it into a bin.

A clever idea out of Costa Rica, however, aims to increase reuse by giving consumers clever reutilization ideas right on the product packages themselves.Reuse Ideas On Packaging
"We put ideas in everyone's hands" is the slogan of (meaning "What do I do with this"), a project that has succeeded in getting several Central American brands to incorporate reuse-instruction labels -- bearing ideas generated by design students -- onto their packaging.

reuse project product labels photo

Reuse labels on a jar of hair gel, a lightbulb box, a pack of toilet paper, and a food container. Photo:

A big tub of Plastigel hair gel, for example, has icons on its label suggesting reuse as a fish tank, a napkin holder, half of a set of barbells, or a planter. A packing box could be turned into a table, a shoe rack, an iPod holder, or a model plane.

University Students Design And Test New Reuse Ideas
"We established an agreement with the Universidad Veritas, Costa Rica, to introduce the project within the design curriculum," project director Manuel Travisany told TreeHugger in an email. "[Another partner, an advertising] agency manages the participation of the marks [brands], and every three months a group of students develops new reuses for the packaging of the brands [that are] part of the project."

Each product label sends consumers to the website, where step-by-step photographs show how to make the projects depicted in the icons. People can also upload and share their own ideas for reusing aluminum, glass, plastic, paper and cardboard, Styrofoam, fabric, and other materials.

reuse project shoe rack jewelry organizer photo

An old Frigidaire box becomes a playful shoe rack (L) in a design by Alberto Araya while a food container was the starting point for a jewelry organizer (R) designed by María José Salas. Photos:

"Local and global efforts are geared toward building an awareness of recycling and reuse... [but] there are some barriers to carrying this out, [including] the lack of creativity, ideas, and knowledge of the possibilities offered. This tool was created to reduce these drawbacks," Travisany said.

Big Impact With Only A Small Label Change
The brands Plastigel, Rice n Smile, Sylvania, Lanco, Nevax, Gollo, and Pecositas have already either added the Quehagoconesto labels to their products or are in the process of doing so. According to Travisany, the companies were eager to get involved because the project gives them an opportunity to make a big impact on the post-consumer cycle "with only a small change in labels."

"We believe the model has a huge potential and... can be replicated perfectly out of Costa Rica," he said. "Our dream is to be self-sustaining, to incorporate more brands every day, hopefully the largest [ones] that produce more packages. Why not think about it in the near future as an international standard in product labeling? This is just the beginning."

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New Packaging Tells You How to Reuse It Creatively
Creative crafters can come up with all sorts of beautiful and innovative ways to

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